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Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Washington State?

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Drinking and driving is a crime in Washington, and law enforcement officers have a duty to pull over drivers who they suspect may be under the influence. If a police officer pulls you over, he or she may ask you to take a breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC). You may wonder if you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test — and the answer is no.

Can You Refuse to Take a BAC Test?

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious charge and can put other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at severe risk for injury. You can receive a conviction for a DUI if you are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle, and law enforcement finds one of the following is true.

  • You are impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • You have a BAC of .08% or higher.
  • You have a THC level of 5 nanograms or more.

Under Washington’s implied consent law, you must give a breathalyzer test when a police officer asks you to do so. By operating a vehicle, Washington law states you have already given consent to take a breath test. If you refuse the breathalyzer, you can face serious legal consequences. These may include administrative penalties, as well as additional criminal charges.

Potential Consequences for Breathalyzer Refusal

After you refuse a breathalyzer test, the responding officer will report you to the Washington Department of Licensing. The Department will then suspend your driver’s license for a period of time, depending on the number of previous offenses you have on your record.

  • If this is your first DUI arrest or breathalyzer refusal, the Department will suspend your license for two years.
  • If you have a prior DUI conviction or breathalyzer refusal on your record within the last seven years, you will lose your license for three years.
  • If you have two or more convictions or refusals within the last seven years, you will receive a four-year license suspension.

In addition, you may request a restricted license after your suspension. A restricted license allows you to drive, but you will need to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle. You can only drive during your suspension period with the IID installed, giving a breathalyzer test before you can turn on your vehicle.

You can also face increased criminal charges if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test. For example, the mandatory minimum jail time for a first-time DUI is 1 day, but if you refuse to take a breathalyzer, you will have to spend two days in jail. For a second offense, you will have to spend 45 days in jail if you refuse a test instead of the usual 30-day minimum for a BAC under .15.

Another major consequence of refusing a breathalyzer test is the impact it could have on your future criminal case. A prosecutor can use your refusal to take the test as evidence against you, arguing you were trying to hide the fact that you were under the influence.

Do You Need a DUI Defense Attorney?

If you are facing charges for a DUI in Washington, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible. While refusing to take a BAC test can cause serious consequences, hiring a defense attorney can help you combat these charges and potentially reduce your sentence.

In addition, hiring an attorney for your DUI case can provide several benefits, such as access to investigative resources and familiarity with the Washington criminal justice system. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and plan your next steps.

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