police officer holding breathalyzer outside car

Legal Requirements to Submit to Preliminary Breath Tests for Blood Alcohol Content in Virginia

If the police suspect you’ve been drinking and driving, they may pull you over. To measure your blood alcohol content (BAC), they may ask you to take a breathalyzer test. Depending on the circumstances, you may face stiff penalties for refusing to take a breathalyzer test. Plus, your refusal to take the test may be used against you as evidence in your DUI trial. For a clearer understanding of your legal rights, consult with Virginia DUI defense lawyer James E. Short immediately. 

Virginia’s Implied Consent Law for Breathalyzer Tests

All motorists on Virginia’s public roads are subject to the state’s implied consent law. The law states that all drivers consent to having their blood and breath tested to determine their BAC. Officers can then verify whether a driver’s blood alcohol content exceeds the legal limit of 0.08. 

There is one very crucial detail to keep in mind about Virginia’s implied consent law. It only applies after a law enforcement officer has charged the driver with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). This includes both roadside testing and any BAC testing at the police station. The implied consent law does not apply if the officer has not yet charged the person with drinking and driving. 

Possible Punishment for Refusing a Breathalyzer

It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Virginia. This applies equally to driving a car, riding a motorcycle, or boating under the influence. Refusal to take a breathalyzer test after a DUI arrest can result in serious consequences. 

First Refusal and Offense

Code of Virginia § 18.2-268.3 outlines the penalties for refusing a breathalyzer or blood test. The law describes these both as breath and chemical tests. A first offense under this statute can result in a driver’s license suspension of up to one year. HOwever, the offender may petition the court 30 days after the date of conviction for a restricted license and the court may, for good cause shown, issue a restricted license.  

Subsequent Refusals Within 10 Years

The same section of the Code of Virginia also describes penalties for second, third, and subsequent refusals. If someone was charged with refusing a breathalyzer test within the last ten years and is charged with refusing it again, they face even stiffer penalties. It becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor. The driver’s license suspension increases to three years. They may also go to jail for up to one year and have to pay a fine of up to $2,500. 

How Refusing a Breathalyzer Affects Your DUI Case

Motorists who refuse a pre-arrest preliminary breath test (PBT) cannot have their refusal used against them in their DUI case. Even if they refuse the PBT, drivers can still be arrested for a DUI, though. Once they’ve been charged, they are legally obligated to comply with Virginia’s implied consent law for breathalyzer and blood tests. 

An unreasonable refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test at that point can be admitted as evidence in the criminal trial. It can also result in the penalties described above, including an immediate driver’s license suspension. This is why it is so essential to hire a Virginia DUI defense attorney as early in the process as possible. James Short can help safeguard your rights and explain your legal options. 

A person charged and convicted of refusing to take a breathalyzer test is not automatically convicted of a DUI. These are two separate accusations. The possible penalties for a DUI conviction can be much harsher than penalties for refusing a breathalyzer.

Why You Need to Hire a DUI Lawyer Today

Navigating Virginia’s drunk driving laws can be difficult. Hire a trusted DUI defense lawyer like James Short and tap into years of experience and legal knowledge. Your DUI attorney can explain what to expect at your DUI arraignment, investigate your case, and develop a sound defense strategy for the best possible outcome.