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Can you refuse to take a breath test?

Whether walking a line or breathing into a breathalyzer device, field sobriety tests are a prominent step in many traffic stops. While these tests are common, many people facing charges of driving under the influence (DUI) may still wonder whether they can refuse this testing. Are you required to submit to police testing at a traffic stop?

What does California law say about field sobriety testing?

While drivers have the right to refuse a test if they police stop them, refusal to take a breath test after an arrest can lead to additional potential consequences. California Vehicle Code Section 23612 states that drivers have given their consent to sobriety tests by deciding to drive on California roadways, and that these tests can include breath, blood or urine tests.

This does not necessarily mean that you must submit to a breath test at a traffic stop, but it does mean that your refusal can lead to additional penalties. People who refuse chemical testing face automatic suspension or revocation of their driver’s license.

Can you refuse a test if you are not under arrest?

If an officer has not yet placed you under arrest, they may ask you to take a breath test as a form of  Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS). Under California law, you can refuse this initial screening in most cases without penalty. However, the right to refuse does not apply to people who are less than 21 years old or on probation as a result of a drunk driving offense.

Whether you submit to chemical testing or not, it is important for anyone accused of a DUI to speak to an experienced attorney. An experienced attorney can examine the particulars of your case to build a strong defense that protects your rights. For example, if police did not inform you of the penalties for refusing a chemical test or if they did not have probable cause to stop your vehicle, these breaches of procedure could be an important factor in defending your freedom.

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