I get the question, “can I refuse a Breath or Blood test?” all the time. What are my rights? Can I refuse once you’ve been pulled over? In today’s blog, your favorite Colorado Springs defense attorney Andrew Bryant discusses this exact topic.
The short answer is yes, of course you can choose to refuse a chemical test. The real question is, is it smart to refuse a chemical test when law enforcement has requested I take one? If you refuse, you will most likely face serious administrative and criminal consequences as a result of your actions. For example, if an officer pulls you over and believes you are intoxicated or under the influence of a substance, and you refuse to submit to a test to determine your BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) level, you risk multiple consequences and some of the most severe are: 1) having your license suspended for one year through the Department of Motor Vehicles (Administrative), and 2) the District Attorney can use your refusal against you as proof that you were too intoxicated to be driving (Criminal).
While you may not be under arrest at this point in time during your interaction with law enforcement, completely refusing a chemical test is almost always not a great idea. Typically, prosecutors will still base a potential DUI/DWAI charge on other evidence collected at the scene including: observations the officers made, testimony of any other potential eyewitnesses, the results of a field sobriety test, was there a car accident, etc.. Like I said earlier, if you refuse a chemical test it can be used against you in any possible trial. While officers may request that you submit to a Portable Breath Test (PBT), the results of a PBT are not admissible in a criminal trial. Those results are admissible in the DMV Revocation Hearing, and motions hearings in your criminal case.
As driving is considered a privilege and not a right in Colorado, the State has the authority to suspend or revoke your driver’s license, charge fines, or even impose jail time for convictions in DUI cases. Be aware though, under Colorado’s Express Consent Law, drivers have consented to submitting to a chemical test if law enforcement believes they have probable cause to suggest that you were driving while impaired in exchange for being given a driver’s license. In layman’s terms, you’ve agreed to take a test if they think you’re drunk or high, and if you refuse, the State can revoke your driving privileges.
Colorado, through the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your license for 12 months if you refuse to take a chemical test. You may be eligible for an earlier reinstatement, however you will be required to install an Interlock device in every vehicle you own or may drive. If you have a prior DUI conviction you can face even longer suspensions.
This brings us back to the real question at hand, is it smart to refuse chemical test if law enforcement requests that I submit to one? Some attorneys think the correct answer is to always refuse, no BAC equals a much more difficult time for the prosecution to prove you were too impaired to be driving. However, as we’ve discussed, there are severe, built-in consequences when someone chooses that path that are designed to discourage a refusal. On the flip side, if you consent, then the Department of Motor Vehicles and the prosecuting attorney know exactly what your BAC is. The correct answer is always please don’t drink and drive and put yourself in this situation, however if you’re in that situation, there is no perfect answer because every situation will be different. Chemical tests can be attacked and challenged in court, and that’s obviously not the case with a refusal.
Questions After Refusing a Chemical Test? Talk to an Attorney
If you’ve been cited for a DUI where you’ve refused a chemical test, not all hope is lost. An attorney can determine whether the stop was lawful or if law enforcement even had probable cause to invoke Express Consent and request you submit to a chemical test in the first place. If you have questions about your rights and legal options following the refusal of a BAC test, talk to a skilled Colorado Springs DUI attorney near you today.