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Can you refuse a Breathalyzer in California?

Have you ever been pulled over by a police officer because they thought you were intoxicated behind the wheel? Because most people do not know all of the subtle nuances of the law, they may not know what to do during a traffic stop. What rights do you have? Could you get in trouble if you do not comply with the officer’s requests?

Some of our California readers may not know this but you could face criminal charges if an officer suspects that you are intoxicated and you refuse to submit to chemical testing. This is true even if tests determine later that you are not intoxicated. This is because of our state’s implied consent laws, which proclaim that any person that operates a motor vehicle within the state “is deemed to have given his or her consent to chemical testing [..] for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of his or her blood” during a traffic stop.

Although a person does have the right to refuse the test, failing to take it can result in legal consequences, which is something the officer conducting the traffic stop is supposed to explain to a driver.

One consequence is that the Department of Motor Vehicles could suspend or revoke your driver’s license for a breath test refusal. A refusal can also enhance a DUI charge, meaning additional penalties as well. It’s also important to keep in mind that some prosecutors may try to use a refusal against you if your case goes to trial, which can be problematic especially without skilled attorney.

Because these subtleties of the law may not be well know by everyone, it could lead to complex legal problems down the road. And if a person does not have the right counsel to answer their questions, they could find themselves facing criminal charges and possibly harsh penalties as well.

Source: The California Department of Motor Vehicles, “V C Section 23612 Implied Consent For Chemical Testing,” Accessed July 21, 2014

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