When law enforcement suspects a driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may subject that driver to a variety of tests to confirm the impairment and measure to what extent the driver is intoxicated. But what are these tests? How do they work, and, most importantly, what happens if you refuse to take them? Our attorneys discuss how DUI test refusals are handled in Los Angeles County and the possible consequences of refusing a DUI test.
In California, licensed drivers are subject to the implied consent law, which means that anyone with a valid driver's license has provided their consent to submit to chemical DUI testing at the time they applied for the license. Chemical testing includes breath samples (using a breathalyzer device) as well as blood and urine samples. In addition, drivers may also be asked to perform a field sobriety test when pulled over by a law enforcement officer.
The breathalyzer test works by detecting alcohol vapor in a person's breath. The individual is asked to blow into an alcohol tester called a breathalyzer. If any alcohol is present, the machine is capable of detecting it and measuring its concentration, indicating the person's BAC (Blood Alcohol Content). Blood tests and urine tests are conducted by obtaining a sample from the individual and sending it to a lab for analysis. In general, blood tests typically offer more accurate results than breath or urine tests, but none of the three DUI testing methods offer 100% reliability and can be subject to errors and inaccuracies.
Another tool that is often used by law enforcement in suspected DUI cases is the field sobriety test. A field sobriety test is a combination of a series of tasks to help evaluate a driver's mental and physical condition in order to determine if they are impaired by the consumption of alcohol or drugs. As part of a field sobriety test, an officer can ask a person to perform a horizontal gaze test (follow a pen or pencil move from side to side without tilting their head), walk in a straight line, and even stand on one foot for 30 seconds.
Field sobriety tests tend to yield controversial results – they have been criticized as being inaccurate and highly subjective. It is totally up to the officer to determine whether you've "passed" or "failed" the test, and there is a high probability that the results from any part of the rest could be misinterpreted and lead the officer to believe that a person is intoxicated. In addition, California drivers are not obligated to take a field sobriety test and can politely refuse to do so without any negative consequences. However, it is worth noting that if you refuse a field sobriety test, you may be asked to submit to a chemical test such as the breathalyzer.
Because of the implied consent law, California drivers are expected to agree to submit breath, blood, or urine samples to law enforcement when arrested for a DUI. The breathalyzer test can usually be conducted at the police station, while a blood and urine sample may be collected at the station and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
In other words, simply by having a valid driver's license, law enforcement understands you have given your implied consent to chemical testing. While you can technically refuse to submit to chemical testing, the implied consent law prescribes several legal implications for a refusal.
The most common consequence of refusing a chemical test for a DUI is immediate license suspension. In addition, you may be facing longer jail time, have your license suspended for additional time, and have to participate in longer DUI school programs.
If you are facing DUI charges and need help protecting your rights, reach out to the Hurwitz Law Group. Our lawyers are available to assist you with your DUI case in Los Angeles County and surrounding areas. Call 323-310-9677 to learn more.