A breathalyzer is a common tool in the arsenal of a law enforcement officer. They routinely use the devices to gather evidence against someone they suspect of driving under the influence (DUI). If you’re pulled over, can you refuse to take a breathalyzer test?
Technically, yes. But the actual answer is a bit more complicated.
Before and after an arrest
There are two scenarios to consider: pre- and post-arrest.
If you have been pulled over by an officer, but have not been arrested on suspicion of DUI, you can generally refuse a preliminary breath test without penalty. In addition, this refusal can not be used against you in court, nor during an administrative proceeding.
However, if you have been arrested and the officer has “reasonable grounds” to suspect you are driving while intoxicated, you are in a tougher spot. Kentucky has an implied consent law. That means, by choosing to operate a motor vehicle, you are automatically consenting to a chemical test should you be arrested on suspicion of DUI.
This chemical test can be done via a blood, urine, or breath test. Refusing to take it can come with serious consequences.
Penalties for refusing a chemical test
If someone refuses to consent to a chemical test after being arrested, there are some potentially significant penalties. If you refuse:
- The fact you refused could be used against you in a court of law
- Your license may be quickly revoked
- If later convicted of DUI, the penalty might be doubled as a result of your refusal
- You may be barred from using an ignition interlock device during the course of your license suspension
Even in situations where you are cleared of any criminal DUI charges, the courts may still suspend your license because of your refusal.
The bottom line is, yes, you can make the choice to refuse to take a breath test after an arrest. But in doing so, know it can make your case quite difficult down the line.