Being arrested on DUI is a serious charge, and knowing how to best deal with it is essential. If you’re pulled over on a suspicion of DUI, you will be asked to undergo a series of field sobriety tests. These are the ones you hear stories about, like being asked to walk a straight line or recite the alphabet backwards. You will typically only be given a breath test if you perform poorly on these.
You can refuse the breath test, but the question of whether you should is debatable. There are actually two breath tests, one administered on the side of the road and one administer at the police station. The one on the road typically has no penalties if you decline it, but refusing the second one at the police station can often have serious consequences if you are ultimately convicted, such as extra jail time or loss of driving privileges. The consequences vary from state to state.
If you are absolutely certain you are under the limit, submitting to a breathalyzer test will nearly always clear you and you can go home. In that case, there’s no reason to refuse it.
One of the concerns about the breath test, however, is that it can sometimes give false positives. While the test does find alcohol in your system, it can be thrown off by chemicals that are there for other reasons. Smoking, diabetes, and inhaling paint fumes can all confuse the breathalyzer and cause it to generate a false positive.
Because of this, there is a backup in place. If a breath test indicates you are over the legal limit, you will often be given a second test, such as a blood or urine test, which takes a little longer but returns more accurate results. If these tests are clear, you have a very good chance of not being convicted or possibly even charged.
If you are uncertain about whether or not you should take a breath test, you can always request to speak to a lawyer. This will end all testing until you can discuss it with your lawyer, but you will be booked for the DUI in the meantime. In some states, refusing to take a breath test is seen as evidence that you knew you were guilty, so talking to a lawyer before you decide one way or the other can be a good plan.
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