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DUI Chemical Test Refusal – Almost Always a Bad Idea

 Posted on January 13,2020 in DUI

Santa Cruz, CA DUI attorney for license suspensionOne of the more common questions folks who are curious about DUIs ask is whether to take a breath or blood test, or whether to refuse testing. The answer is different for different situations, but one answer is easy: do not refuse the “chemical test” of breath or blood unless you do not care about having a driver’s license.

California law states that a driver has agreed to both agree to and submit to a “chemical test” after an arrest for DUI. The phrase “chemical test” can be misleading - it simply refers to a blood or breath test following arrest. They will not be putting chemicals in you, and at least here in Santa Cruz, the blood test is typically done at a hospital. There is a pre-arrest breath test called a PAS (preliminary alcohol screening test) that you can, by law, refuse - and the officer is bound to tell you that. After arrest, though - even an arrest that seems unlawful, off base, or just plain wrong - a refusal to take the “chemical test” will likely lead to a driver’s license suspension of at least one year. That is zero driving and zero sympathy, with your license gone for a year, no matter your need to drive.

Moreover, what the DMV can deem a refusal to take a chemical test is often ludicrous. Silence can be seen as a refusal, even with no physical resistance. If you politely state “Please just note that I object” – the DMV will call that a refusal. Saying “I will take a test if you get a warrant” is refusal as far as the DMV is concerned.

The officer’s admonition regarding your choice of breath or blood tests can be very confusing, even to folks who are familiar with the law. It is a half-page of small font legalese, read to you when you are in cuffs and anywhere from slightly anxious to freaking out (not the greatest mindset for understanding nuanced language). Lately, officers have been telling arrestees that they have the right to refuse a chemical test. The truth is that if you do so, they will try to suspend your license for at least a year. Plus, in most cases, they will simply get a warrant and take your blood anyway.

If you would like to keep your driving privileges as intact as possible, agree to take the post-arrest "chemical test.” Do not hesitate, do not ask for a lawyer (you are not entitled to one for this decision), and do not go silent - this just gives them fuel to take your license for much longer than they would for a regular DUI. 

Contact a Santa Cruz, CA DUI Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested on drunk driving charges, it is essential to secure representation from an experienced attorney. At the law office of John W. Thornton, we can help you determine how to defend against these charges and maintain your driving privileges. Contact our Santa Cruz DUI lawyer at 831-426-5800 to schedule a free consultation.

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