DUI Refusal Consequences
A Complicated Decision
As a criminal defense attorney I have repeatedly heard the simplistic advice that if you are being investigated for Driving a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence (commonly referred to as a DUI, OVI, drunk driving, etc.) that you should always refuse the breath or blood test. In light of the evolution of drunk driving laws, I consider this to be incomplete advice. The decision to refuse or not to refuse is more complex than simply advising a client to always refuse the breath or blood test.
Pre-Trial Suspension Punishes a Refusal
So, why is this issue complex? The primary reason is that in most jurisdictions a refusal of an officer’s request for a breath or blood test will result in the automatic suspension of your driver’s license. This is commonly referred to as a pre-trial suspension. If you refuse requests for breath and/or blood samples your driver’s license will be immediately pre-trial suspended when you come before the court. This means that you cannot drive, no exceptions, while you fight your case. This pre-trial suspension period often comes as a complete surprise to people who have received the simple advice to always refuse. The better and more complete advice needs to consider the circumstances of the individual. You deserve to know the benefits and consequences of a refusal.
An individual needs to answer two questions in advance of a drunk-driving stop in order to decide whether or not they will refuse an officer’s request for breath or blood.
- Can I live without my license for the next several months?; AND
- Am I willing to take the chance of one to thirty days in jail?
Can you live without your license for the next several months?
I have had several clients that will lose their job immediately if they cannot drive. Others do not have an adequate support system to transport them on a daily basis while they are without their license. The individual being investigated for drunk driving needs to understand that a refusal will result in an immediate suspension of your license. If someone cannot live with an immediate suspension, then refusal may not be their best option. Taking and failing a breath or blood test does increase the chances of conviction, but it also avoids a pre-trial suspension. It is not an easy decision.
Am I willing to gamble with a relatively small amount of jail time?
If you try your case and are convicted, there is a chance that you will receive some jail time. That may mean a couple days in jail, perhaps a couple of weekends, but jail nonetheless. My experience has shown me that many clients simply are not willing to gamble with their freedom, even if it is only a short amount of time in jail. If the client is not willing to go to trial and take that gamble, then a refusal may have little benefit. In short, a refusal of breath or blood has a low chance of helping you with your DUI charge unless you are willing to try the case.
So what should you do if you are being investigated for drunk driving? If you are willing to accept the pre-trial suspension and take the case to trial, then you need to understand The Complete DUI Refusal