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

by | Dec 1, 2017 | Drunk Driving |

Getting stopped by law enforcement is almost always a hassle. Even if you know you weren’t breaking the law, you may worry about what the officer thinks of the situation. Mistakes happen all the time, resulting in innocent people getting arrested and charged with crimes they didn’t commit. That can include driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges.

Many people think that anyone accused of a DWI must obviously be guilty. After all, police receive special training to conduct roadside sobriety tests. Additionally, chemical tests can detect alcohol levels beyond the legal limit.

What many people forget is that there are a host of medical conditions that could cause a person to appear intoxicated, such as ketoacidosis due to diabetes or other, more rare conditions. That can result in issues with a field sobriety test. There are also foods and medicines that can cause false positives on chemical tests.

Some people, worried about the potential for a false positive, may wonder about refusing a chemical test. It’s important to understand that refusing a chemical test requested by law enforcement during an arrest for probable cause in Texas is illegal.

Driving on the roads means you’ve given implied consent

In order to legally ensure that people on the roads get protected from impaired and intoxicated drivers, Texas has an implied consent law. Essentially, anyone who operates a motor vehicle on public roads in Texas, whether they live in the state or not, consents to chemical testing if police believe there is evidence of impairment during a traffic stop.

That evidence could be a mistake while driving, such as letting a tire cross the center line. It could also be nervous behavior during the traffic stop, caused by anxiety or fear. Although law enforcement can’t physically force you to take a chemical test, if you refuse, you face potential consequences.

What happens when you refuse a chemical test?

In most cases, police already intend to arrest people requested to submit to a blood or breath chemical test. Upon your refusal, you will most likely get taken into custody. From there, the officer will warn you about the potential consequences for refusal.

If this is the first time you’ve refused to take a test, the officer can use your refusal against you in court, and you will likely lose your license for 180 days. For those who have previously refused a test, that suspension period increases to two full years without a license.

Most of the times, the courts will view a refusal to take a test as an admission of guilt. The officer involved in the stop or your arrest will likely testify to his or her reasons for suspecting impairment and advise the courts of your refusal to take the test.