Penalties for Refusing DUI Test Can Include Fines and Jail Time

As part of state and federal efforts to save lives on the road, drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs who want to “just say no” to a breathalyzer or other sobriety test may face serious penalties. Strict measures for refusing a DUI test are increasing in importance, especially when it comes to punishing repeat offenders, who may be searching for ways to avoid new arrests.

The legal consequences for refusing a DUI test are different from state to state, but can range from the driver losing his or her license to jail time – with even stricter penalties for repeat offenders. In many cases, the punishment for refusing a test for determining blood alcohol concentration remains separate from any penalties for being found guilty of driving under the influence.

In 2006, it was reported that 19 states were sending a very clear message about refusing a DUI test – say no, and the penalties for a driver who is later found guilty will be even more severe. Only about one-fourth of persons across the nation who are pulled over on suspected driving under the influence refuse testing, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Drivers who suspect that being pulled over for the first time on suspected DUI charges and refusing the test may give them a “second chance” are incorrect. If a driver who has been requested to participate in a breathalyzer or other test is saying no to the test, even for the first time, he or she can receive jail time in states including Alaska, Nebraska and Minnesota. If a driver is pulled over and refuses a DUI test in Vermont or California, and that driver has previous DUI offenses, the jail term can be as much as two years.

Fines can also encourage a driver to submit to a DUI test. Depending on the case, the fine can near $10,000 or more, and some first-time test avoiders can be required to pay $3000. If a driver in some eastern states decides not to participate in a DUI test, they may also be required to attend a substance abuse rehabilitation program.

Driving clues and other signals reported by law enforcement officers can help remove a drunk driver from the road, even if that driver says no to a DUI test. Swerving, not passing a traditional sobriety test or having the smell of alcohol on the breath can all be documented by officers. Vehicles can be searched for alcohol bottles or cans, which can become court evidence.

The legal foundation for punishing people for refusing a DUI test centers around the assumption that by acquiring a state driver’s license, the driver is automatically agreeing to participate in DUI tests. Called implied consent, the law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court more than 35 years ago. Local city governments also have some authority in punishing people who refuse a DUI test, because local fines or penalties can accompany state penalties.

Considering the sobering statistics – including some stating that for every ten people, three will have their lives impacted by a car accident related to a driver under the influence of alcohol – enforcing strict punishments for DUI refusal is more critical now than ever.