In California, if you get pulled over for a DUI (driving under the influence) and the officer asks you to take a blood, breath, or urine test, do you have to take one? What happens if you refuse?

California Implied Consent

California law requires you to take a breath or blood test if you are arrested for a DUI. California’s “implied consent” law says that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been driving under the influence, then you consent to taking a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content (BAC).  The test must be taken at the time of your arrest, and the officer should give you the choice between a blood or breath test. If neither blood nor breath tests are available, then you have to take a urine test. The law also gives a special exemption for people taking anticoagulants for a heart condition or who have hemophilia – they don’t have to take the blood test. Additionally, California’s implied consent law says that you consent to taking a preliminary breath test, even if you have not been arrested. This works like a field sobriety test. The officer will use the results to establish probable cause that you were driving under the influence. You do not have to take this preliminary test, and the officer should say so. Refusing it, however, probably won’t work in your favor if the officer has some other reason to think you had been drinking. Based on that other reason, the officer could still arrest you and then you will be required to take a test under the law described in the paragraph above. If you are arrested, the officer should tell you that if you refuse to take the test, you will be fined, will lose your license, and that you could be sent to jail if you are later convicted of a DUI. Also, the officer shall advise you that you don’t have the right to speak to an attorney about whether you should take the test and in fact your refusal can be used against you in a court of law. You can read California’s implied consent law in the California Vehicle Code Section 23612.

Refusing to Take the Test for DUI in California

In California, the penalties for refusing to take a blood, breath, or urine test begin with a one-year suspension of your license. You could lose your license for two years if this is your second refusal or if you already had a reckless-driving or DUI conviction within the last ten years. The penalty jumps to a three-year suspension for your third refusal or if you have had more than one reckless-driving or DUI conviction within ten years. The fine is the same – $125 – whether this is your first, second, or third refusal. The penalties for refusing to submit to a chemical test are found in the California Vehicle Code Sections 13353 and 14905/

Should You Refuse to Take a Mandatory DUI Test in California?

It usually does not help you to refuse to take a blood, breath, or urine test when you are arrested for a DUI. In California, the consequences for a DUI, including at least 96 hours in jail and fines from $390 to $1,000, are more severe than refusing a chemical test. Still, refusing the test does not guarantee that you won’t be convicted – you could be found guilty of a DUI even if your refusal means that the state does not have proof that your BAC was over.08%, the legal limit for those over 21. In fact, the prosecution can use your refusal against you by arguing that you refused the test because you knew that you were intoxicated and guilty of DUI.

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