Getting pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a painful experience, and the penalties on conviction are severe. A drunk-driving conviction stays on an individual’s record, possibly preventing them from getting or keeping a job, and license suspension can make daily activities like driving to work or school challenging.
Many people are under the impression that by refusing to submit to breath or blood tests, they can keep the officer from being able to make the charges stick. However, a refusal to submit can result in additional penalties or driving restrictions. In the United States, it is estimated that 20% of all alleged drunk drivers refuse to take a blood alcohol (BAC) test when stopped on suspicion of drunk driving.
Implied consent laws in Texas
Implied consent laws in all 50 states operate under the theory that a driver’s license is a permit allowing individuals to drive on a public road. Individuals automatically give implied consent to submit to the measures that law enforcement officers take in order to enforce traffic laws, which can include agreeing to a BAC test to determine intoxication levels.
Under Texas implied consent laws, the officer must have probable cause in order to make an arrest on DWI, and can decide on whether the test will be a blood or breath test. The individual may also, at their own expense, have a blood test taken by a medical professional of their choice within two hours of the arrest.
The BAC test is not mandatory except in the case of an accident involving severe injury or death, if there are prior DWI convictions or a conviction for intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter.
Consequences of refusal
Refusing a test in Texas means that if convicted of a DWI, the individual may face fines, license revocation or even jail time. The suspect may refuse a roadside breathalyzer test prior to arrest, which may force the officer to rely on observations of unusual behavior, bloodshot eyes or slurred speech as evidence to make an arrest.
After arrest, the individual may still refuse a BAC test, but the penalties will be immediate and severe, beginning with a 180-day license suspension. If they have had prior alcohol or drug convictions within the past ten years, they may face up to two years of license revocation.
It is possible to mount an effective defense that can include proving that the officer unlawfully stopped or arrested the driver, or that the tests were improperly administered. Having aggressive criminal defense representation serving the Beaumont-Port Arthur area can change the outcome of a conviction and minimize the damage done to your life.