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Should You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

A driver waits in the car while an officer stands nearby with a breathalyzer test

Deciding whether to refuse a breathalyzer test in Texas is a complex decision with significant legal implications. Understanding the laws, consequences, and potential defenses related to breathalyzer refusals can help you make an informed choice. Here’s what you need to know, brought to you by the experienced Austin criminal defense team at Smith & Vinson Law Firm.

What is the Implied Consent Law in Texas?

Under Texas law, by operating a vehicle, you automatically consent to submit to chemical testing if a law enforcement officer believes there is probable cause that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is known as the "implied consent" law.

When Does Implied Consent Apply?

If an officer determines there is probable cause to believe you are impaired, you are required to submit to a chemical test (breath or blood) once arrested. The officer must inform you of this requirement both orally and in writing. Despite this requirement, you cannot be physically forced to take the test.

Mandatory Testing Situations

There are situations where you might not have the option to refuse a breathalyzer or blood test. These include:

  • Involvement in a Collision: If the collision resulted in death or severe injury.
  • Prior Convictions: If you have previous convictions for intoxication assault, intoxication manslaughter, two prior DWI charges, or a DWI charge with a passenger under the age of 18.

Is It Better to Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

Potential Implications of Refusal

Refusing a breathalyzer test can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it prevents immediate evidence of your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content), but on the other hand, it comes with its own set of consequences.

  • Prosecution Arguments: The prosecution may argue that you refused the test because you knew you were guilty, which could negatively impact your defense.
  • No Refusal Weekends: During certain holidays, Texas law enforcement implements "No Refusal" weekends where officers can obtain a court order for a blood test if you refuse a breathalyzer.

Before making any decisions about submitting to a breathalyzer test, it is crucial to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney. They can provide tailored advice based on the specifics of your case and the current legal environment.

What Are the Consequences of Refusal?

Refusing to take a breathalyzer test typically results in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for 180 days. This administrative penalty is separate from any criminal charges that may follow.

If you are ultimately arrested and convicted of a DWI, the consequences are more severe:

  • Fines: You may face fines up to $2,000 for a first offense.
  • Jail Time: Possible jail time ranging from three days to 180 days.
  • Extended License Suspension: A conviction can lead to a longer suspension of your driver’s license, potentially up to two years.

What to Do if You Are Charged with a DWI

If you are charged with a DWI, it is critical to act quickly:

  1. Contact an Attorney: Reach out to an experienced DWI defense attorney immediately.
  2. Document Everything: Write down details of your arrest, including the behavior of the officers, the procedures they followed, and any witnesses.
  3. Request a Hearing: You have 15 days to request a hearing to contest the administrative suspension of your license.

An experienced attorney can explore several defense strategies, including:

  • Challenging Probable Cause: Arguing that the officer did not have sufficient reason to stop you or arrest you.
  • Questioning Test Accuracy: Examining whether the breathalyzer or blood test was administered correctly and if the equipment was properly calibrated.
  • Procedural Errors: Identifying any mistakes made by law enforcement during the arrest process.

Don't Wait - Contact Smith & Vinson Law Firm First

By understanding the implications of refusing a breathalyzer test and working with a knowledgeable defense team, you can significantly improve your chances of a favorable outcome in your DWI case.

Our team of skilled criminal defense attorneys has a proven track record of winning DWI cases in Texas. If you are charged with a DWI, call (512) 359-3743 to get in contact with one of our attorneys right away. We are here to protect your rights and help you navigate the complexities of DWI charges effectively.

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