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The consequences of refusing a breath test

The approach of the holidays brings with it a profusion of parties and large supplies of alcoholic beverages. Police departments on Long Island are generally more vigilant in spotting potentially drunk drivers, and many people will be asked to submit to a breath test. We want to review the legal justification for such requests and the consequences of a breath test refusal.

Under New York law, every driver is deemed to have given permission to police, as a condition of receiving a driver’s license, to determine his or her blood alcohol content level (BAC) if a police officer has “reasonable grounds” to believe that the person has been driving under the influence of alcohol. The BAC level may be tested by analyzing a person’s breath, blood, urine or saliva, but the most common method is the use of a device known as a breathalyzer.

Before administering such a test, the police officer must inform the suspect that refusing to take a breathalyzer test will automatically cause his or her driver’s license to be revoked for not less than one year. If the driver then refuses to take a breathalyzer test, his or her license is immediately suspended for fifteen days pending an administrative hearing. If the evidence at the hearing shows that the officer in fact had reasonable grounds for believing that the driver was drunk, the license will be revoked for one year, and the driver may be fined $500. This decision may, under certain circumstances, be appealed.

Refusing a breath test can have serious consequences. In the modern age of cell phones, a person who has been stopped and asked to take a breath test can contact an attorney with experience in defending DUI cases. The attorney can evaluate the situation and provide helpful advice about whether to take the test or refuse it.

Source: New York Vehicle & Traffic Laws, §1194, accessed Nov. 22, 2015