I GET ASKED ALL THE TIME…
If I've been drinking and I get pulled over, should I refuse a breathalyzer test?
First, let me say that I am not a criminal defense attorney.
However, as an attorney, these are the options I would tell my friends and family:
1. You can refuse to blow, and you can also refuse a urine or blood test. But the police can obtain a warrant for your blood test, and then you pretty much have to take it.
2. Refusing to blow will result in an automatic suspension of your driver's license for at least one year, unless you have a history of refusing, and then it could be even longer. However, if you do the breathalyzer and are found to be over the legal limit (.08 for adults over the age of 21 and .02 for drivers under the age of 21), you will likely be charged with OWI, also known as DWI.
This could cost you anywhere from $300 to $1,000 as well as a minimum of 48 hours in jail. And your driver's license will still get suspended. This is also not including any attorney's fees or court costs.
If you get in a wreck that involves a a serious injury or fatality, you don't have a choice...
According to Louisiana's implied consent law (LA Rev Stat § 32:681), law enforcement officers are required by law to administer a blood test to a driver involved in a wreck where serious injury or fatalities result. By operating a vehicle on the roads of Louisiana, you imply your consent to a test.
So if you're caught driving under the influence, you are going to face some consequences one way or the other.
Some people look at taking the breathalyzer as simply giving the police evidence to convict you. While that's somewhat correct, refusing the breathalyzer is not an automatic "stay out of jail card". So ultimately, there is not a cut and dried answer that will keep you out of trouble.
That's my answer as an attorney. But as a dad and a member of a community I love,
I would say just don't get in this position to begin with. In 2020, there are simply too many options available for avoiding driving while impaired to take the risk. Services like Uber and Lyft have made it so easy to and relatively cheap to get a safe ride home.
I have friends who say they don't want to waste $10 on an Uber, but trust me...it beats the heck out of what getting caught driving impaired will cost you. At the least, you could lose your license, be slapped with a fine (much larger than $10), and could have your mugshot posted online for the world to see (and trust me...people LOVE to share mugshots...). At worst, you could face criminal charges and be responsible for the serious injury or death of another person (maybe even someone you love). And the cost of that on your conscious is a much heavier burden to bear than a $10 Uber.
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Blase Inzina is a personal injury lawyer in Lafayette, Louisiana, and is a former insurance defense lawyer. He is licensed to practice in Louisiana and Arizona. The information on this site is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should speak to an attorney before taking action.