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Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer in Arizona?

If you've ever wondered whether you can refuse a breathalyzer test, the answer is yes. However, when you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you face serious consequences that can negatively affect your life and livelihood. Contact an Arizona DUI lawyer to learn more about the potential repercussions involved with a refusal.

How Accurate Is a Portable Preliminary Breathalyzer Test in Arizona?

Police officers typically first use a preliminary handheld breathalyzer test (PBT). This is usually conducted at the actual scene of the traffic stop. A PBT is a device when they stop motorists they suspect of driving under the influence of alcohol. But contrary to what many believe, these breathalyzer tests are not always accurate. They're certainly not as accurate as using a certified breath sampling machine or blood tests, in fact in most cases the reading itself from a PBT can’t come in as evidence of your impairment in a court case because of just how unreliable these are. However, the authorities use these devices to help establish an initial finding of probable cause, which is needed to make an arrest. 

Factors that Can Cause a False Positive on a Breathalyzer Test

what happens if i refuse a breathalyzer

The breath samples that can be used as case evidence are the samples taken on the larger, usually fixed machines, which are usually located back at the police stations. One such common model is the Intoxilyzer 8000 unit. However, even these Breathalyzer tests are not always precise. These units are notoriously susceptible to a variety of influences that frequently skew their outcomes.

Some of these factors include:

  • Medical conditions: A breathalyzer may display a higher blood alcohol content (BAC) for an individual who suffers from diabetes or one of many gastrointestinal disorders;
  • Diet: Certain foods and diets, such as high-protein diets, can lead to a high BAC reading. Fasting may also cause you to blow a high reading;
  • Burping: Burping can cause a failed breathalyzer test by exuding traces of undigested food and alcohol from the stomach;
  • Mouthwash and other products: Mouthwashes and other ethanol-based products can cause you to fail a breathalyzer test;
  • Improper calibration: Improper calibration of a breathalyzer test will produce false results.

If you received a positive result as a result of these errors, a criminal defense lawyer could help you challenge your DUI.

Can You Refuse a DUI Breathalyzer, Blood, or Urine Test in Arizona?

how to get license back after refusing breathalyzer

In Arizona, you may refuse to submit to a DUI breathalyzer, blood, or urine test in the absence of a search warrant. 

Your right to refuse a breath test comes from the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects individuals from self-incrimination. Additionally, breathalyzer and chemical tests are considered searches, which makes it necessary in most cases for law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant in order to conduct a test without your consent.

And if you do not give your consent in these circumstances, you will receive an implied consent violation. When this occurs, Arizona's implied consent law gets triggered, and your driver's license becomes subject to action taken by the Motor Vehicle Department.

What Are the Consequences of Refusing a DUI Breathalyzer?

Refusing to submit to a DUI breathalyzer, blood, or chemical test comes with serious consequences that will likely impact your life. Because of Arizona's implied consent laws, the Motor Vehicle Department is authorized to take swift action against your driver's license.

Once you refuse to submit to a test, the following consequences will likely occur:

  • Suspension of your driver's license for a year for a first-time refusal; a second refusal within a seven-year period results in a two-year suspension;
  • The officer will seek a warrant to conduct the breathalyzer or other chemical test despite your refusal;
  • You may still be arrested for a DUI, even if you refuse to take a test;
  • At trial or during plea negotiations, the fact that you refused to take a breathalyzer test can be used against you as evidence of guilt.

After your license has been suspended, you may have it reinstated after the allotted time has passed and after you have completed an alcohol screening program.

Understanding Arizona's Implied Consent Law 

All drivers on Arizona roads (including non-residents) are deemed to have given implied consent to a breathalyzer or other chemical test. This means that if you drive on Arizona roads, you have already given consent.

Although consent is implied, police officers still need reasonable grounds to pull a person over and a warrant to perform a DUI breathalyzer test. If a person denies consent and the police proceed with a breathalyzer or chemical test without a warrant or a warrant exception, the driver's rights have been violated, and they should seek an attorney. That said, they must still deal with their failure to consent to the test, even if the warrantless test is dismissed by a judge.

Do You Have to Submit to a Field Sobriety Test in Arizona?

If you are pulled over and asked to take a field sobriety test, you can refuse to do so without violating the implied consent law. Field sobriety tests are subjective in nature and are used by police officers to come to a determination regarding a person's state of intoxication.

Common elements of a field sobriety test include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus eye test, a walk-and-turn test, and a test requiring you to stand on one leg.

If you do refuse to take a field sobriety test, the officer will likely ask you to take a breathalyzer test. And, of course, refusing a breathalyzer test will result in an implied consent violation.

What Happens If You Refuse a Breathalyzer?

refusing breathalyzer

If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, a chain of events will kick into motion, often resulting in the loss of your license.

  • Notification: The officer notifies the motor vehicle department of your refusal and orders a suspension that will take effect in 15 days;
  • Surrender of license: The officer will then take possession of your driver's license and give you a temporary driving permit. With this permit, you will be allowed to drive normally for 15 days;
  • Hearing request or suspension: During this 15-day period, you have the right to request a hearing with Arizona MVD to contest the suspension. If you do not request a hearing, the suspension will take place after 15 days, and your temporary driving permit will be invalid;
  • Hearing scheduling: After requesting a hearing, you will receive notice within 60 days of when it is to take place. During the period between your request and the resolution of your case, you may be permitted to drive;
  • Hearing before an administrative law judge: The judge will review all of the evidence and testimony in your case and make a decision within 10 days of the hearing.

Refusing a breathalyzer test in Arizona is a violation of the implied consent that all drivers on Arizona roads are deemed to have given.

How to Get Your License Back After Refusing Breathalyzer Tests

arizona breathalyzer laws

Having your license suspended can wreak havoc on your work and personal life. However, if you have refused a breathalyzer test and are looking at a suspension, there are actions that you can take to potentially prevent the suspension from sticking.

Remember that you have 15 days after your arrest before the suspension goes into effect. Hence, it is wise to take immediate action, which begins with knowing when your time is up.

Once you are sure of your dates, you will want to request a DMV administrative hearing as soon as possible and before the 15 days are up. When completing this step, make sure that you have confirmation that you indeed requested a hearing.

Afterward or before, reach out to an experienced DUI defense attorney to represent you before and during your hearing. A knowledgeable DUI arrests lawyer will know precisely what to do to increase your chances of getting the suspension thrown out and preserving your ability to drive.

Our Experienced DUI Defense Attorney Can Help You Fight Your DUI Charges

Arizona's DUI laws are among the toughest in the nation, so you need experienced representation to defend you against the state. The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Brandon White are ready to help you face your DUI charges head-on. If you have been charged with a suspected DUI, seek counsel immediately, and contact us today for a free initial consultation and case review with a seasoned DUI lawyer who cares.

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Should you admit to drinking if you’re pulled over?

If you are pulled over for drinking, other than to provide your driver’s license and identify yourself, you are under no obligation to admit anything to the officer. In fact, you should remain silent and not incriminate yourself during questioning.

How long do I have to wait before I can get my license back?

You will lose your license for 12 months for a first-time refusal. If you have refused to consent to another test within seven years, your license will be suspended for 24 months.

Can I ask for a blood test instead of a breathalyzer?

You can ask for a blood test instead of a breathalyzer test. However, refusing to take a breathalyzer test may be deemed as a violation of implied consent, and you will likely have your license suspended.