If you have never faced a DUI before, your first arrest can be unnerving. You may not know how much or how little to tell the police. When you get to the station, the arresting officer will ask you to take a chemical test measuring your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Should you accept or refuse?

While you may not want to give the police evidence against you, refusing a chemical test can carry severe consequences. Before you refuse, you may want to understand the penalties for violating Virginia’s implied consent laws.

Virginia considers driving a privilege

When you first pass your driver’s test and receive a license, Virginia gives you a license and allows you to drive. However, the state does not consider driving to be a right. You can lose your driving privileges if you refuse to take a chemical test.

Implied consent for chemical tests

Virginia has an implied consent law for DUI tests. When you drive on Virginia roads, you give your consent to taking a breath or blood test. If you don’t let officers test your BAC, you automatically lose your driving privileges for one year.

The penalty for violating implied consent is an administrative penalty. It is separate from any court punishments related to your DUI. Even if the court drops your charges, the license suspension can remain in effect.

A refusal can be used against you

In addition to the penalties you face, police can use a refusal against you. Instead of submitting the results of your chemical test in court, they can give evidence of your refusal. Refusing a test can still lead to a DUI conviction.

Police must follow a strict procedure

Implied consent laws can lead to harsh penalties if you refuse a chemical test. But police must also follow a strict procedure when administering these tests. And if you refuse, Virginia law requires the arresting officer to explain implied consent laws and the penalties for refusing. If you or your attorney can prove the officer didn’t follow proper procedure throughout your arrest, you may be able to have your charges reduced or dropped.