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Can You Refuse a DUI Breathalyzer Test in California?

Steven R. Andrade July 27, 2021

If you are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in Santa Barbara, CA, it is likely that you will be asked to submit to a breathalyzer test. You may be wondering: What happens if I refuse to give a post-arrest breath sample in California? The short answer is that you will be found in violation of the state's implied consent laws and will face the revocation of your driver's license. In this article, our Santa Barbara DUI defense lawyer provides a more detailed explanation of California's DUI breathalyzer test laws.

An Overview of California's Implied Consent Law

Similar to most states, California has an ‘implied consent' law on the books. Under Vehicle Code § 23612, all motorists are “deemed to have given his or her consent to chemical testing of his or her blood or breath for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content” following an arrest on DUI charges. If you were arrested for intoxicated driving, you are legally required to provide a breath sample. Refusal to do so will subject you to automatic administrative sanctions.

The Penalties for A DUI Refusal in California

Drivers who violate California's implied consent law are subject to automatic penalties. Here are the two primary sanctions for post-DUI arrest breath/blood test refusals in California:

  • An automatic revocation of your driver's license for one year; and

  • Enhanced criminal penalties for any associated DUI case.

Note: A driver who refuses to provide a breath sample or a blood sample in violation of California Vehicle Code § 23612 can still be charged with a DUI. Prosecutors may decide that they have enough evidence to bring the case and obtain a conviction without any chemical sample.

Most Drivers Are Not Required to Submit to A Preliminary Alcohol Screening in California

It is important to emphasize that California's implied consent law applies to post-arrest breath tests and blood tests. Those tests are typically given at the police station following an arrest. Most drivers in California are not required to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening, including a roadside breath test and other field sobriety tests. There are serious reliability concerns with preliminary alcohol screenings and field sobriety tests. As such, most drivers are within their rights to refuse these tests. That being said, there are two important exceptions. In California, a driver must cooperate with a preliminary alcohol screening breath test if:

  • They are under the legal drinking age (younger than 21); or

  • They are on probation for a previous DUI conviction.

Contact Our Santa Barbara, CA DUI Defense Attorney for Immediate Help

At Andrade Law Offices, our Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyer is a skilled, results-focused advocate for justice. If you have any questions about DUI refusals, we can help. Give us a call now or contact us online for a completely confidential initial consultation. With a law office in Santa Barbara, our law firm defends drivers throughout Santa Barbara County, including Lompoc, Santa Maria, Goleta, Carpinteria, Buellton, and Guadalupe.