Being stopped by the police for suspicion of driving under the influence is no picnic, as anyone who has ever gone through such an experience will gladly tell you. Perhaps there are people who believe that the book should be thrown at anyone who is even suspected of such behavior, but the fact of the matter is that it can happen to anyone and you don’t even have to be drunk for this to happen.
A police officer might suspect that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, both legal and illegal, simply because he thought the driver changed lanes much too quickly or somewhat erratically, or for another of many various possible reasons. Once a police officer has it in his or her head that a driver is impaired, it is quite hard to dissuade the officer from thinking so, and the driver will have to endure a stressful situation that begins with being pulled over. When this happens one is already thinking that they may need to see a criminal defense lawyer.
The police officer will start to observe the driver from the moment they approach the vehicle and asks for a license and registration. Some of the possible behavior that the officer will look for can include fumbling for documents and erratic movements that can indicate that the driver is impaired to one point or another; but even in the absence of this and no smell of alcohol, the officer will most likely proceed to ask the driver to step out of the vehicle in order to perform a field sobriety test; if you have never had to perform such a test you have probably seen it done on TV.
Anyone who has ever had to perform a field sobriety test knows that it is extremely hard to perform even while absolutely sober, and that is why it almost never convinces officers that the driver in question is not under the influence of alcohol or another substance. This inevitably leads to the officer to ask the driver to agree to a chemical test. The question for the driver now becomes whether he or she will comply or refuse the chemical test.
About Chemical Tests
You might not have heard the term “chemical tests” before but you are probably familiar with a breathalyzer test from seeing it done in movies or TV. A breathalyzer is one of the chemical tests that police have at their disposal in order to determine whether a driver is above the legal limit for intoxication or not. A driver is considered to be driving under the influence if his or her alcohol level is above .08 in most states and could even be handcuffed and arrested if that level is just below the legal limit!
In fact, a breathalyzer test is the most common chemical test performed by law enforcement officers. It is so easy to perform with the portable device that police carry around for this purpose; the other chemical tests such as blood test and urine analysis, that they can perform are not quite as easy but they are a lot more accurate and that is why police will utilize them from time to time. Police know that blood tests and urine analysis are a much bigger headache than a simple breathalyzer test but they will turn to them when necessary.
A driver who is asked to perform a chemical test might think that if he or she refuses to comply that will automatically make any possible charges disappear since there will be no evidence to present in court, but that is not how it works. Refusing to comply with a chemical test will not only not make the charges disappear, but it will bring added consequences as well. The reason behind this is implied consent.
About Implied Consent
You might not have heard about implied consent before but you should definitely know about it in case you find yourself being asked to take a chemical test by a law enforcement officer. Most states have implied consent laws that impose severe penalties when drivers refuse to comply with an officer’s request for a chemical test. The thing about it is that those laws clearly state in one way or another that drivers already agree to take those tests when asked to by law enforcement officers once they get behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle.
That’s right, you already agreed to it and refusing is very much like breaking a contract. The penalties that arise from such a refusal vary from state to state but, in most cases, they will carry a mandatory driver’s license suspension for six months to a year, and can even carry hefty fines. Plus, if the driver is eventually found guilty of the DUI, the court will take the refusal into account during sentencing and that means even harsher penalties.
About No-Refusal Policies
When a law enforcement officer is faced with a driver who refuses to take a chemical test, the officer can get a warrant to go ahead with the test anyway. Some drivers pursue this course of action hoping that it will take the officer so long to get the warrant that they can sober up enough during that time to pass the test! In our modern high-tech world those warrants can come in minutes and that strategy no longer works. This is what a no-refusal policy is.
Something else that should be considered by drivers who think about refusing a chemical test is that if they choose to comply, the evidence can be refuted by their attorney when they go to court, whereas a flat out refusal can be seeing as evidence of guilt and will most likely be presented as such by the prosecution. A competent DUI attorney has a lot of ways to refute evidence and can even get a case thrown out of court so you will definitely want to talk to one if you are charged with a DUI, refusing to take a chemical test or both!