As a motorist it is probably your worst nightmare scenario aside from a collision – looking in your rearview mirror and seeing the flashing lights and knowing that you had a glass of wine or chugged a beer before you got behind the wheel of your vehicle. Most likely, the officer will ask you some questions, maybe ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests, and eventually place you under arrest if the officer believes you are driving under the influence, or DUI. At the station, you will be asked to submit to a chemical test. What happens if you refuse a chemical test in California?
Asking a motorist to submit to a chemical test is standard operating procedure after a motorist has been placed under arrest for DUI, or another alcohol or drug related driving offense, in California. The purpose of the chemical test is to ascertain if you have alcohol or drugs in your system. Usually, you will be asked to take a breath test; however, a blood or urine test could be requested instead. If the officer believes you are under the influence of drugs instead of, or in addition to, alcohol, for example, a blood draw or urine test may be requested. The reason for this is that a breath test can only check for the presence of alcohol, not drugs, in your system. Despite what you may have been led to believe, you can refuse a chemical test; however, doing so comes with consequences.
Like most states, California has an implied consent law. In short, the implied consent law means that by virtue of the fact that you are operating a vehicle on a public roadway in California you have already given your consent to submit to a chemical test if you are charged with DUI in California. Despite the law, you can refuse to take a chemical test in most cases. Refusing the test, however, will cause your license to be suspended for one year for a first refusal. A second refusal comes with a two year license suspension and a third refusal with a three year suspension. In addition, you will face a fine for refusing the chemical test. Of equal importance, your refusal can be used against you at trial. The prosecutor may be allowed to introduce the fact that you refused and make the argument that you refused because you knew you would test over the legal limit.
If you have already been charged with DUI in California, or you have specific questions about whether you should refuse a chemical test should you ever be asked to take one, consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney.