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What Happens If I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in California?You have likely seen a Breathalyzer used in a traffic stop, either on television or by someone who has been pulled over. Since driving under the influence (DUI) is an important topic discussed in driver education classes, you may have even been able to try one out yourself. Many courses bring in the handheld machines to let students test them out by putting the small tube in their mouths, blowing, and seeing the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) record appearing at 0.00. While you were sitting soberly in class, you probably never imagined yourself being in a situation where you would have to take the test. Unfortunately, many drivers will be asked to submit to the test at some point in their lives, with possible criminal charges to follow.

Knowing the Law

When sitting in your driver’s education course, all of the seemingly minor details of California roadway regulations can start to blend together. What you may have forgotten over the years is the details of California’s DUI implied consent laws. Upon signing up for their California driver’s license, all Californians sign over their right to refuse a breath alcohol test when asked by law enforcement. According to this law, any driver who is lawfully arrested for a DUI must submit to a chemical test to measure their BAC. You may be wondering what is considered a “lawful arrest.” An arrest is considered lawful if the officer has probable cause to conclude that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances. 

So if you have yet to be arrested and a police officer asks you to submit to a breath test, are you required to do so? The general answer is no. The implied consent law does not extend to those asked to complete a chemical test before they have been arrested. This is known as a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). However, those under the age of 21 or on probation for a DUI must submit to the test since they are not allowed to drive with any alcohol in their system.

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