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What Happens if You Refuse a Breath Test in a California DUI Stop?

There are two different types of breath tests that an individual may be asked to take when stopped by the police for suspicion of a DUI. What happens if you refuse a breath test in California depends on which test you refuse to take.

The first breath test is the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) device test that may be administered during an initial police stop. The PAS device — often referred to as a breathalyzer — is used to detect and measure the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of drivers on the road. If an individual is arrested for DUI, a second breath test will be administered at a police station. The breath test device used at the station is considered to be more precise than the PAS device as long as it is properly calibrated and maintained. 

If a police officer pulls you over because they suspect you may be driving under the influence, the officer may ask you to breathe into the PAS device. The purpose of this preliminary test is to help the officer determine if there is probable cause to arrest you for a DUI, but the PAS test is completely voluntary unless you are under 21 years old or currently on probation for a DUI. There are no penalties for refusing to take the PAS test and there is no reason to consent to it, since it can only help the police officer develop probable cause. If you take the test and fail, the officer will arrest you. If you don’t take the test, probable cause to arrest will have to be established by other evidence.

The same is true of field sobriety tests that may be requested by the police officer. You don’t have to consent to them and there is no penalty for refusal.

If the officer concludes there is probable cause and you are arrested for DUI, you will be asked to submit to a breath test at the police station. The breath test administered at the police station is mandatory under California’s Implied Consent Law. Refusing the second breath test will cause your driver’s license to be suspended for one year. If this is your second DUI within 10 years, the suspension will be for two years, and if it’s your third DUI within 10 years, the license suspension will be for three years.

Refusing the second breath test in a California DUI can also enhance the amount of your jail time by 48 hours and increase the number of months of DUI school by six months if convicted of a DUI.  

If you have been charged with a DUI, the Roseville, California firm of Strategic Law Command can help you understand the charges against you and build a strong defense. To schedule a consultation call (916) 787-1234 or contact us online today.