When you drive on Illinois roads and highways, you assume certain responsibilities for following the rules of the road and protecting the safety of those around you. As you know, law enforcement officials are regularly on the lookout for those who may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you have been pulled over by police for any reason, and the officer has a reason to believe you may be impaired, he or she will probably ask you to submit to a chemical test that measures your blood-alcohol content (BAC). While refusing a BAC test is an option, it’s important to understand the State’s potential penalties for doing so.
Preliminary Breath Tests and Post-Arrest Breath Tests
If you are asked to submit to a chemical test, a breathalyzer is the most common form. During a DUI investigation, that is while the officer is evaluating you during a traffic stop, a PBT or preliminary breath test might be offered to you if he suspects you have been drinking. While this type of breath test is deemed unreliable by criminal courts, officers can still request that you take this test and they will use it in making a determination of whether you are under the influence of alcohol. You have every right to politely decline a PBT, with no direct consequences of your license. In fact, if you have had too much to drink, it is advisable that you refuse this test.
Once you are arrested on suspicion of DUI however, the officer will also ask you to submit to BAC testing back at the police station. Refusing a test at this stage will have direct consequences on your license.
You may have read or have been told that refusing a BAC test after a DUI arrest is your right. In some ways, this is true; you cannot be criminally prosecuted for such a refusal in Illinois. However, you can and will be subject to administrative penalties issued by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office—the government entity responsible for overseeing drivers’ licenses and driving privileges in the state. Refusing a BAC test at the police station will result in the suspension of your driving privileges for one year. If you have refused a chemical test before, within a 5 year period, a second or subsequent refusal carries a three-year suspension of your license. You should know that you have the ability to contest your suspension in court, regardless of whether you agree or refuse the take the breath test. In addition, first time offenders are generally allowed a permit to drive during their suspension.
Refusing Doesn’t Prevent Prosecution
The administrative penalties for failing or refusing a BAC test incident to arrest are completely separate from and in addition to any criminal DUI prosecution. You should keep in mind that you can still be prosecuted for DUI, and even convicted, absent any breath test. The BAC standard of intoxication of .08 percent in Illinois is only one of the criteria that can be used to prove that you were driving under the influence. Erratic driving, slurred speech, performance in other field sobriety tests, and other evidence of impairment, as well as the refusal itself, can lead to a conviction of DUI. However, you should realize that when you take a breath test, you are potentially providing solid evidence in your case that the State will use against you.
It Is Not Too Late
If you have recently refused a BAC test and are now facing a suspension of your driving privileges or DUI charges, you may have options that can help you minimize the damage to your license. Contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. Schedule your free initial consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba by calling 815-740-4025 today.