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What happens if you refuse a breath test during a traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2021 | DUI |

During a traffic stop with a driver the police suspect has had too much to drink, officers will usually take three steps to validate their suspicions. First, they will ask the driver questions about their conduct earlier in the day. Next, they may ask the driver to exit the vehicle and perform a field sobriety test. Finally, if they believe they have probable cause, they will request a chemical breath test.

If you find yourself on the side of the road with the police officer who suspects that you have had too much to drink, your first instinct may be to refuse to take the chemical test that the officer requests. What happens when you deny an officer’s request for chemical testing?

Virginia has a law about drivers refusing chemical tests

Driving is a privilege, not a right, which means that the state can limit what you do behind the wheel of a car. One of the many rules that govern driving is the state implied consent law regarding chemical impairment tests.

Anyone with a Virginia license or driving on Virginia roads must consent to testing when a police officer has probable cause to request it. If someone refuses a chemical test during a traffic stop, the police officer can arrest them immediately for violating the implied consent law.

A first offense is a civil infraction rather than a misdemeanor, and it may mean that you lose your license for a year. However, lawmakers have updated the state code to allow drivers to request a restricted license after serving the first 30 days of their license suspension. This restricted license, however, will require the installation of an ignition interlock device in any vehicle the driver operates.

Knowing the law can help you avoid breaking it

Many people worry about the results of a chemical breath test because they recognize that these devices are prone to inaccurate results. Rather than refusing the test and making yourself look guilty, a better approach may be to challenge the accuracy of the test results later as part of a defense strategy.

Learning more about Virginia’s implied consent laws and other drunk driving rules can help you prevent or defend against criminal charges.