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Should I Refuse a Breathalyzer in Washington State?

Posted on May 31, 2018 in DUI

Many motorists have questions about their rights in drunk driving cases, and one of the most common inquiries is whether to refuse a BAC test. The issue is closely tied to Washington State law regarding implied consent, which applies to any person who operates a motor vehicle. Under the statute, you agree to a chemical test under certain circumstances. The consequences of refusal can be severe.

You don’t necessarily gain an advantage in a drunk driving case by declining a BAC, but you are in a better position to obtain a favorable outcome if you retain an experienced Tacoma DUI attorney. Our lawyers at the Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC in Tacoma, WA have extensive experience defending individuals charged with drunk driving offenses, so please call us at (253) 518-3643 to schedule a consultation regarding your case. An overview of BAC tests and how they trigger Washington’s laws on implied consent may also be helpful.

Overview of Implied Consent

Under Washington State Law, all drivers operating vehicles in the state are deemed to have given their consent to a breath test for purposes of assessing blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This implied consent is a type of condition attached to your driver’s license: Upon accepting your driving privileges, you implicitly agree to a BAC test when requested by a law enforcement officer.

Still, police do not have the freedom to force a BAC test upon you in any situation. The statute requires that you be under arrest for drunk driving or being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Plus, it’s necessary for the arresting officer to have reasonable grounds to believe that you were intoxicated, so a hunch may not be enough to justify a BAC test.

BAC Versus Preliminary Breath Tests

It’s important to clarify the distinction between BAC tests and the preliminary breath tests (PBT) that are common during roadside stops. A PBT typically involves blowing into a portable device for an unofficial assessment of your level of intoxication, before you are under arrest. These Non-Evidential Portable Hand-Held Devices cannot be used against you in court because they are notoriously inaccurate. PBT tests can, therefore, be refused consequence, much in the same way a driver can decline participation in field sobriety tests.

On the other hand, an Evidential Breath Testing Device is used for BAC testing, and Washington State uses the DataMaster device. When utilized in accordance with the Blood Alcohol Calibration Training Manual, the results can be powerful evidence in a drunk driving case.

Legal Implications When You Refuse a BAC

If you decline to submit to chemical testing when requested by police, after an arrest for drunk driving, you face serious consequences:

  • Your driving privileges will be revoked or denied for one year or more; and,
  • Evidence that you refused a chemical test can be introduced in a criminal trial.

Note that a police officer must inform you of your rights to refuse a BAC and provide additional warnings as designated by the implied consent statute. Failure to do so can work to your advantage because it offers a potential defense.

Discuss Your Circumstances with an Experienced DUI Attorney in Tacoma, WA

Washington State laws on drunk driving are tough, but at least you get an opportunity to fight the allegations when you comply the officer’s requests for a BAC test. A DUI lawyer can assist by preparing a strategy to attack weaknesses in the case against you. If you refuse a BAC, the sanctions are automatic and you may not be granted an opportunity to defend your actions.

To learn more about BAC and implied consent, please contact The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC by calling (253) 518-3643. You can also contact us online to schedule a free consultation about your case.