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Former Traffic Court Judge Serving New York and New Jersey

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Former Traffic Court Judge

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Automatic consequences of Breathalyzer refusal

You probably remember the very day you took the test to obtain a valid driver's license. Whether that was a year or so ago, or if you've been driving for decades, chances are, you consider that past event a milestone in your life.

In New York and all other states in the nation, most consider driving as a privilege rather than a right. This means you can lose your driving privileges in certain circumstances. For instance, if a police officer pulls you over in a traffic stop and suspects you of intoxicated driving, you may be asked to submit to a Breathalyzer test. What happens after that depends to a certain extent on what you do.

Does the law require you to take the test?

New York governs such situations under an implied consent law. Although you are not specifically required to take a Breathalyzer test, in exchange for driving privileges, you automatically consent to submit to chemical tests to determine your blood alcohol content if requested to do so by a law enforcement officer with probable cause to suspect you of DUI. The following list includes potential repercussions of refusing to take a Breathalyzer test:

  • Your driver's license sustains an automatic suspension if you do not comply with a police officer's request to take a Breathalyzer test.
  • You will face a fine as a penalty for your refusal.
  • If you've been involved in a collision that resulted in injury to another person, the officer can counteract your breath test refusal by obtaining a court order that requires you to submit to the request.

How long your license is suspended and the amount of the fine depends on several factors, including whether it is your first offense and/or first refusal. The easiest way to avoid complications during a traffic stop is to remain calm and cooperate as best you can with the officer on site. It's crucial to remember that drunk driving is a criminal offense not a traffic violation.

Protecting your rights

Just because you have a drink or two then drive yourself home does not necessarily mean you have broken the law. Also, accusations do not constitute guilt; therefore, a police officer's suspicions do not prove you will be convicted in court. Plenty of people facing similar charges before you have successfully avoided conviction. From start to finish, you have rights, and a law enforcement officer must not violate those rights. Remember the following:

  • Police officers have strict protocol to which they must adhere when conducting any searches or seizures, or placing you under arrest.
  • Although you are obligated to answer basic questions pertaining to your name and address, you do not have to discuss your situation any further until you have secured legal representation.
  • If you believe there was a violation of your personal rights, you can speak to an attorney who can then gather evidence needed to challenge the prosecution's case against you.

It's your choice to submit to or refuse a Breathalyzer test. You are the one who has to weigh the possible pros and cons of your decision. It's typically best to act alongside experienced guidance before doing something you might later regret. The law allows you to request immediate assistance from a defense attorney if an officer suspects you of drunk driving. A skilled attorney can provide sound counsel and advice as to how best to proceed to increase your chances of obtaining a positive outcome in court.

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