Can I Refuse a Breath Test in California and what are the Implications?


Being stopped by the police in the middle of the road is a terrifying experience for drivers and one of their most common fears. They represent the law and have their 9mm ammo and guns to show for it. But if the officer suspects you were driving under the influence, the nightmare tends to turn real. When faced with this scenario, drivers are often in a dilemma whether they can refuse to teak a breath test as it could prove them guilty. But refusing to take the test can also imply their guilt in court.

The officer who arrested you is obligated to tell you that refusal can lead to fines, jail time and losing your license. They will also inform you that you cannot speak to your attorney before taking the test, as well that refusal can be used as evidence against you in the court.

The “implied consent” law in California states that all drivers have to submit to chemical testing if they are pulled over for suspected DUI. Chemical testing will determine the blood alcohol concentration in the driver’s system, as well as detect any traces of drugs and other illegal substances.

Drivers are usually given the choice between a blood and a breath tests. In some cases where neither are applicable, drivers are required to take a urine test. For example, it’s impossible to take a blood sample from a hemophiliac or person taking anticoagulant drugs. People may also refuse a breath test if they suspect “mouth alcohol” can influence the results.

Is it Illegal to Refuse a Breath Test?

The answer to this question is circumstantial. However, you can refuse to take a preliminary alcohol test with no legal consequences before the police officer arrests you. However, if you are younger than 21 or if you are still on probation for a past DUI offense, you cannot refuse the preliminary screening. Even though the arresting officer might not always let you know you have a right to refuse the preliminary test, you can rest assured your refusal in these situations will not be used against you.

However, you are not legally allowed to refuse the test after being placed under arrest. You cannot be forced to comply, but failure to do so will result in some legal consequences. According to California’s implied consent law, you have to submit to testing after a lawful arrest.

If you refuse to take a breath test, you could face more severe punishments if the court finds you guilty of DUI. The penalties could range from additional jail time and increased fines, depending on the number of previous offenses. You also risk having your driver’s license suspended or revoked.

How Can I Defendin Courtafter Refusing the Test

If you refuse to take a breath test, you have to make sure to hire an experienced attorney you can afford to help you mount your defense. There are a number of ways you can justify your refusal in court:

  • You can refuse to take a breath test in California if:
  • You weren’t driving at the time of arrest.
  • You were arrested unlawfully or there was no cause to pull you over
  • There’s not enough evidence to accuse you of DUI
  • The police officer didn’t follow the necessary procedures like reading you the Miranda rights

If your officer did not clearly state the consequences of refusing a breath test, your attorney can also use this to your advantage. Furthermore, if you refuse to take a breath test due to injury that leaves you unable to take the test unless you caused your own injuries.

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