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Should I refuse a breath test?

In our last couple posts, we’ve been talking about breath testing, first, in connection with the growing popularity of consumer level breath test smartphone apps and, second, in connection with the accuracy of breath tests from an evidentiary standpoint. Here we want to offer some comments on the practice of refusing a breath test during DUI investigations.

Under Maryland’s implied consent law, drivers are deemed to have consented in advance to providing law enforcement officers a breath, blood or urine sample to determine their level of intoxication during DUI investigations. Police officers don’t have free reign in requesting blood alcohol tests, though, and must have reasonable grounds to believe that the motorist is under the influence of alcohol, drugs or another controlled substance. 

In most cases, motorists may technically not be forced to take a blood alcohol test under state law. The decision whether or not to submit to a blood alcohol test is not one most people think out in advance. Sometimes motorists simply assume that refusing to submit to a test is smart because it means officers will not be able to gather evidence intoxication.

Choosing not to submit to test, though, results in automatic suspension of one’s driver’s license, and officers may still be able to gather enough evidence for prosecutors to support a conviction anyway. This is because drunk-driving charges in Maryland do not always have to be based on blood alcohol concentration. A driver may be convicted of drunk driving at a blood alcohol concentration lower than the legal limit of .08 when prosecutors can show that the influence of alcohol made the motorist incapable of safely operating their vehicle.

In our next post, we’ll continue this discussion.

Source: Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, “Maryland Driver’s Manual,” Accessed Feb. 18, 2015. 

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