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What happens when someone refuses a breath test?

Most New York drivers know that if they are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, they may be asked to take a breath test to determine their blood alcohol content. However, it’s very common for drivers to be confused about what comes next.

Although police office must request that a driver have a chemical breath test, it’s not the kind of situation anyone normally thinks of as a request. In fact, under New York law, licensed drivers are considered to have already agreed to take the test when asked. This is known as the implied consent law.

If drivers refuse to submit to a breath test, they may face immediate penalties, including revocation of their driver’s license for a full year. What’s more, the court will legally presume that the driver refused the test because he or she was drunk. The same rules and penalties apply to refusals of blood, urine or saliva tests.

However, none of this means that New Yorkers accused of drunk driving are completely out of options after they refuse a test. One of the cornerstones of our judicial system is the principle that everyone deserves a defense.

While the law has strict rules for drivers accused of drunk driving, it also has strict requirements for police to follow when they pull over a driver, ask them to take a test and arrest them. Defense strategies for those who have refused a breath test often center finding errors and omissions on the part of the police. If the police exceeded their authority during the process, it may be possible to get their evidence thrown out.

Source: New York Code: Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1194, accessed Sept. 24, 2014