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Breathalyzer refusal: what happens next?

Advocacy. It's a tricky concept. No lawyer advocates breaking the law. Don't drink and drive. Not only does this act increase the odds of death or injury on the highway, DUI and DWI arrests create complications in your career and home.

Lawyers do advocate the best defense strategies once you have been accused of a crime.

For the State to win a conviction on a DUI charge, evidence of a driver's blood alcohol content at the time of the stop is generally required. The accused can refuse to voluntarily provide this evidence by way of not cooperating with the breathalyzer test. Of course, there are consequences arising from this refusal.

Refusal Has Consequences

Drivers consent to this process as a condition of licensing. When consent is withdrawn and the test is refused, the license will likely be suspended for one year, with or without a conviction. Refusal leads to a suspension of driving privilege. Like convictions, serial refusal, that is refusing for several independent traffic stops, leads to longer suspensions and greater fines.

The advantage to refusing a breathalyzer test is eliminating the evidence of blood alcohol content. It may be more difficult to convict for DUI, but driving privileges will be suspended for a year. DWI and DUI convictions affect driving privileges and insurance rates for up to five years. One conviction puts into play the possibility of a second conviction and steeper penalties including jail time.

Breathalyzer results below legal limits do not necessarily lead to dismissal of charges. In the case of a terrible accident on Long Island, the driver blood alcohol content measured less than .08. The investigation is on-going, but the alcohol-related accusation has not been dropped.

The lesson from that case: negative breathalyzer results do not eliminate the potential for conviction, but positive results can be strong evidence for conviction.

The best defense strategy is do not drink and drive. Do not put yourself in the position to make the decision whether or not to submit to a breathalyzer test. Do consider the consequences of voluntarily submitting to a breathalyzer or not. In either case, consult an attorney if you are accused of driving under the influence or while impaired for the advocacy you deserve.

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