Can I Refuse to Take a Breath or Blood Test After a DUI Arrest in California?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in California, with severe legal consequences. If you're ever pulled over by law enforcement and suspected of driving while impaired, you may be asked to take a breath or blood test to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). However, many people wonder if they have the right to refuse such tests.

The Implied Consent Law

In California, the law regarding DUI tests is governed by the implied consent doctrine. This means that by obtaining a driver's license in the state, you have already given your implied consent to submit to chemical testing if you are arrested for suspected DUI. The implied consent law aims to ensure that individuals who use public roads do so with the understanding that they must cooperate with law enforcement in matters related to DUI investigations.

Consequences of Refusing a Test

If you refuse to take a breath or blood test after being arrested for DUI in California, you may face significant consequences. While you have the right to remain silent when questioned by the police, refusing a chemical test is a separate matter, and it can result in automatic penalties, even if you are later found not guilty of DUI in court.

  • License Suspension: One of the most immediate consequences of refusing a breath or blood test is the suspension of your driver's license. The length of the suspension depends on several factors, including whether you have prior DUI convictions and the specific circumstances of your case. For a first-time refusal, your license may be suspended for one year.
  • Longer DUI Education Programs: If you refuse the chemical test, you may also be required to attend longer DUI education programs. This can be a significant inconvenience and additional financial burden.
  • Increased Penalties: Refusal to take a test can also lead to enhanced penalties if you are ultimately convicted of DUI in court. For example, you may face longer probation periods, higher fines, and mandatory ignition interlock device installation in your vehicle.
  • Impact on Your Defense: Refusing a chemical test can make it more challenging for your attorney to defend you in court. The prosecution can argue that you refused the test because you were aware of your guilt, potentially damaging your case.

Should You Refuse a Test?

The decision to refuse a breath or blood test should not be taken lightly. While there are potential consequences for refusing, there may be circumstances in which it makes sense to do so.

Here are a few factors to consider:

  • BAC Levels: If you are confident that your BAC is below the legal limit (0.08% for adults and lower for certain individuals, such as commercial drivers), taking the test may help clear your name. However, if you believe your BAC is significantly higher, refusing the test may be a strategic move, especially if you have consumed a substantial amount of alcohol.
  • Legal Advice: You must consult with an attorney if you're unsure about whether to take the test. A knowledgeable DUI attorney can provide guidance based on the specifics of your case.
  • Blood vs. Breath Test: In some cases, you may prefer one type of test over the other. Blood tests are generally considered more accurate, but they can also be more invasive. Breath tests are less invasive but may yield less precise results.
  • Potential Defense Strategies: Discuss possible defense strategies with your attorney. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may have a strong defense, even without the chemical test results.

While the decision to refuse a breath or blood test after a DUI arrest in California is complex, it is crucial to understand the potential consequences. The implied consent law in California requires drivers to submit to chemical testing, and refusing to do so can result in license suspension and other penalties. Consulting with a knowledgeable DUI attorney, such as Braden & Tucci, can help you navigate this challenging situation and ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Orange County? Contact us today to learn how we can help.