Should I Refuse a Breath Test?
When you might have had one too many before hitting the road, flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror are the last thing you want to see. If you are pulled over and the officer has enough information to believe you could be driving under the influence of alcohol, he or she may proceed and conduct an OWI investigation. The goal of the OWI (operating while intoxicated) investigation is simple: to gather sufficient evidence to later prove in court that you are guilty of driving under the influence. The breathalyzer is a crucial piece of evidence that can help the officer reach that goal. Is it a good idea to deny the officer this evidence?
Why Would I Even Think of Refusing to Take a Breath Test?
Michigan law holds that everyone who drives on a Michigan roadway or highway has implicitly consented to taking a test to determine his or her blood alcohol content (BAC). Despite this law, drivers still retain the ability to refuse to submit to a request for a breath or blood test. In times past, a refusal to submit to a breath or blood test would deprive the officer and the prosecutor of crucial information needed to prove guilt: a relatively-reliable reading of the person’s BAC. Without this information, a prosecutor was required to prove guilt for driving under the influence by arguing that the person’s behavior and performance on standardized field sobriety tests established that the person was under the influence of alcohol.
What Happens Now if I Refuse a Breath or Blood Test?
Realizing that may repeat-OWI offenders were refusing breath or blood tests and thus increasing their chances of acquittal at trial, Michigan imposed an automatic 12 month license suspension for anyone who refuses to take a breath or blood test when requested by a law enforcement officer pursuant to the implied consent law. This penalty is imposed regardless of whether the driver is later acquitted of OWI.
Not only this, but some law enforcement agencies in Michigan are now seeking search warrants authorizing them to take blood from certain drivers who refuse to submit to breath or blood tests upon request. If granted and later admitted at trial, this gives the prosecution the evidence it needs to make convicting you of OWI easier and results in an automatic suspension of a driver’s license.
What Should I Do if I am Pulled Over and Charged with OWI?
In most cases, refusing a requested breath or blood test does not provide you with any distinct advantage. Nevertheless, it remains your choice whether you will submit to a requested test. In any event, you should consult with an experienced Michigan OWI defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. There may be defenses available for your OWI charge as well as steps you can take to protect your driving privileges.
Contact the Van Den Heuvel Law Office at (616) 698-0000 to learn how we can assist you in avoiding some of the more serious consequences of an OWI conviction or refusal to submit to a breath or blood test.