When You Should and Should Not Refuse a Breathalyzer Test

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breathalyzer test

When it comes to OVI arrests in Ohio, the internet is flooded with seemingly conflicting information. Should you refuse a breathalyzer test? Should you submit to avoid harsher penalties? What happens if you refuse? It can all be very complicated and if you don’t know (as many people don’t when arrested for an OVI), it can lead to some serious penalties.

Field Sobriety Tests Versus a Breathalyzer Test

You have the right to refuse to do tests that will determine your sobriety. However, it is important to know when you should exercise this right. If there is one thing to remember when pulled over for an OVI, it is that you should always refuse to do a field sobriety test. This can include taking a breath test via a portable breathalyzer or other less efficient tests like the walk and turn or one-legged stand. What many don’t know is that these tests are often pointless for them. If you pass, the officer can still arrest you if they think you are impaired. If you fail, that failure will hurt your OVI case.

You can and should refuse a field sobriety test always. This will likely result in the officer arresting you and taking you down to the station for a breath, urine, or blood test. It is these tests that you should not refuse. You have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test here. In this case, the officer will need to come back with a warrant for a blood test.

The unfortunate reality is that if you refuse the breathalyzer, even if you are found not guilty in the resulting OVI case, you will still face punishments for test refusal. If you have no prior OVI offenses in the previous six years, refusing the official breathalyzer test will still result in a mandatory one year license suspension. While you can get provisions that allow you to drive to work or school as soon as 30 days, having no license for a year isn’t great. Furthermore, that test refusal stays on your record in Ohio for a staggering 20 years. Therefore, if you get another OVI offense within 20 years, the punishments will be enhanced because of your previous refusal.

Consulting an Attorney

The unfortunate reality is that most people don’t know about their rights to refusal. Or any punishments which might result during the time they are pulled over for an OVI. You don’t exactly research OVI law before doing it. It is something that usually just happens.

In these cases, if you are unsure of what to do, you should always ask for a lawyer. It is your right to have counsel before making crucial decisions like refusing a breath test. However, you should be aware that some officers may refuse your right to a lawyer. An example of this is the State V. Parks case. In it, Parks refused a breathalyzer test. After the officer informed her of the legal consequences of refusal, she asked for a lawyer, but was refused.

Initially the refusal to counsel suppressed her breathalyzer denial until the Ohio Supreme Court declared that the part in the arrest was not a “critical stage” which guaranteed her right to counsel, and the refusal was then admissible again.

In many cases, officers will allow you to seek the opinion of the lawyer and you should exercise it fully. However, if that is not the case, you need to be able to make an informed decision yourself.

If you were arrested for an OVI and need help, whether you refused the tests or not, we can help you. Contact the Law Firm of Dungan & LeFevre to see what we can do to help you escape the lofty punishments of an Ohio OVI.

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