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What Happens If I Refuse a Breath Test in California?

After a DUI arrest, the police will ask you to take a chemical test to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC). Although you have the right to refuse to take a breath or blood test, refusal can lead to serious consequences. 

According to the implied consent law in California, if you drive a vehicle in the state and are lawfully arrested for drunk driving, you automatically provide consent to post-arrest chemical testing. It is important to understand that this law only applies to chemical testing after an arrest, which means you could refuse to take a preliminary roadside breath test before an arrest. 

The following are the penalties for refusing to submit to a post-arrest chemical test: 

  • First offense – Driver’s licenses suspension for up to one year, an extra 48 hours spent in jail, and a minimum nine-month DUI school program. 

  • Second offense – Driver’s license suspension for up to two years and an extra 96 hours in jail. 

  • Third offense – Driver’s license suspension for up to three years and an extra 10 days in jail. 

  • Fourth or subsequent offense – Driver’s license suspension for up to three years and an extra 18 days in jail. 

The state’s implied consent law applies to both California residents and out-of-state drivers and used to apply to both DUI-related breath tests and blood tests. However, a 2016 Supreme Court ruling suggested that defendants cannot get penalized for refusing a blood test in cases where law enforcement officials failed to first obtain a warrant. 

One common defense to DUI test refusal is showing the court that the arrest was not legal. In other words, if an officer failed to establish reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop or probable cause to make an arrest, then the driver never gave implied consent to a chemical test. This defense can result in a case dismissal. 

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Newport Beach or Orange County, contact Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC at (949) 251-0330 today and schedule a free consultation.