It can be very intimidating to get pulled over by the police, regardless of the circumstances. You see flashing lights behind you, and you hope they are intended for someone else. When you realize that they are for you, your heart starts beating a little faster as you pull off to the side of the road. You stop the car, and it seems like hours before the police officer gets out and approaches your car. Depending on the time of day and the circumstances of the situation, the officer is likely to ask a common question: “Have you been drinking at all tonight?” How you answer that question—along with your overall appearance, demeanor, and other factors—may prompt the officer to ask you to submit to a blood-alcohol content (BAC) test, most often in the form of a breathalyzer. Should you agree to take the test?
Two Different Requests
There are two very distinct phases of a traffic stop involving suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The first phase is almost purely investigational. The officer gathers as much information as he or she can regarding factors such as how you were driving the vehicle, any presence of slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, and your presence of mind. At this stage, an officer may ask you to participate in field sobriety tests or to take a breathalyzer, and you have the right to refuse with no criminal or administrative consequences. Keep in mind that a test refusal during the first phase may prompt the officer to push a little deeper, looking for other possible signs of your impairment.
The second phase of a DUI stop begins if and when you are arrested based on probable cause that you were driving under the influence. Once you are under arrest, the circumstances change dramatically. Connecticut law provides that by driving on the state’s streets, roads, and highways, you provide implied consent to submit to chemical BAC testing if you are arrested on suspicion of DUI. Refusing the test at this stage will have consequences.
The Dangers of a Refusal
If you have been arrested for DUI, the officer will almost certainly ask you to submit to a breath or blood test to establish “proof” of your intoxication. There are several steps the officer must take to ensure the test is administered properly. If you refuse to comply with the officer’s request, you cannot be charged with an additional crime, but you will be subject to administrative penalties. A refusal to take a chemical test will result in the automatic suspension of your driver’s license for 45 days—the same length of time that your license would be suspended for failing the test.
Refusing a BAC test has an additional consequence as well. Before your license can be reinstated, you will be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on your vehicle as well. You may only drive vehicles equipped with an IID for one year following your first test refusal. If the refusal is your second offense, the IID requirement is 2 years and 3 years for a third or subsequent offense.
Let Us Help
If you are facing the suspension of your driving privileges as the result of failing or refusing a blood-alcohol test like a breathalyzer, you need help. Contact an experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney and let us provide you with the skilled guidance and representation you deserve. Call [[phone1]] for a free consultation with Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.