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Understanding the consequences of breath test refusals

When a New York driver is stopped by law enforcement and the officer suspects that the driver was operating the vehicle under the influence, a request will often be made for the driver to submit to a chemical test. Depending on the circumstances, this will involve a breathalyzer or a blood test.

Drivers might be under the mistaken impression that they have the right to refuse to take the test. This is a misinterpretation of their rights against self-incrimination. In fact, when a driver gets a driver's license, there is implied consent that the test will be taken at the request of law enforcement. Failure to acquiesce will result in a charge of breath test refusal.

A breath test refusal is separate from drunk driving charges. If the driver was not legally drunk or under the influence and he or she refuses to submit to a chemical test, they will still face the penalties for refusal. A driver who refuses to be tested for blood alcohol content (BAC) will face a driver's license suspension.

There will then be a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing at which the driver's license will be revoked for one year. With a second refusal, the license is revoked for 18 months. There are also fines. The first offense will result in a fine of $500. The second, $750.

If the driver is under the age of 21 -- the legal drinking age in New York -- he or she will be subject to the Zero Tolerance Law. With that, there will be a driver's license revocation for one year and a civil penalty of $125.

A driver should know that it is required to submit to a chemical test when the law enforcement officer has probable cause to request one after a traffic stop or during an investigation. However, if a mistake is made and the driver commits breath test refusal, it is important to have legal assistance for the entire drunk defense from start to finish to do whatever possible to avoid the penalties. A lawyer can help.

Source: DMV.NY.gov, "You And The Drinking Driving Laws -- What Will Happen If I Refuse To Take The Chemical Test?, page 4," accessed on Oct. 30, 2017

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