If a police officer suspects that you have been drinking and driving in Illinois, they may ask you to take a breath test, commonly referred to as a breathalyzer test. The legal consequences of that decision can be significant.
With that in mind, there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer to the question of whether you should take a breathalyzer test when pulled over. Every DUI case is unique and involves a specific set of circumstances. What is important is that you understand both the legal implications of a BAC test refusal as well as the consequences of submitting to and failing the breath test. It is essential that you know your rights under Illinois law so you can make an informed decision. You will have the ability to seek legal representation from a DUI defense lawyer in Chicago, Illinois, regardless of whether you take the breathalyzer test or refuse it.
What is a Breathalyzer Test?
Police officers use breathalyzer tests to determine the blood alcohol content (BAC) in your body. In a typical DUI investigation, breathalyzer tests are used in two different situations. First, they may use a preliminary breath test to assist them in deciding whether to arrest you for DUI. Second, after the DUI arrest has been made, they use it for what is known as an evidentiary breath test. How do these devices work?
- When you consume alcohol, it is absorbed into your bloodstream.
- The blood distributes the alcohol to your lungs.
- When you exhale, the alcohol exits your body through your breath.
- The breath test measures how much alcohol is in your breath and converts this measurement to a blood alcohol content.
Keep in mind that breathalyzer tests are scientific devices, which are designed to determine your blood alcohol content, they are not precise. Although they are typically fairly accurate, being off by just a small percentage can have an impact on your case.
However, police officers also consider other factors aside from the breathalyzer test when determining whether to place you under arrest for DUI. Someone may have called the police and reported that you were driving recklessly or you may have been driving erratically. When the police officer pulled you over and questioned you, he or she may have smelled a strong odor of alcohol on your breath. They may also claim that you had slurred speech or failed the walk and turn test, one leg stand test or other field sobriety tests.
What Happens If I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?
Under Illinois law, if you choose to drive in Illinois, you give your implied consent to be tested for your blood alcohol content if a police officer pulls you over and has probable cause to believe that you are under the influence. If you refuse a breathalyzer test or submit to and fail testing, your driver’s license can be suspended. However, this implied consent only applies to the evidentiary test that you can be requested to take AFTER your arrest for DUI. Implied consent DOES NOT apply to the preliminary breath test that is offered as part of the field sobriety tests PRIOR to the DUI arrest and therefore there are no driver’s license penalties for refusing or taking this test.
Before administering a test, the police officer should have advised you of the consequences of taking and failing or refusing the breath test. Penalties may include:
- One-year driver license suspension if testing refused or six-month suspension if testing failed (for a first offense in the last 5-years)
- Three-year driver license suspension if testing refused or one-year suspension if testing failed (for a second offense in five years)
One of the most damaging consequences of a BAC test refusal is that the prosecutor can use your refusal as evidence against you in court. The prosecutor can argue that you refused testing because you knew you would fail. This is known as consciousness of guilt.
When I am Offered a Breathalyzer Test?
In Illinois, the police officer may offer you a breath test after pulling you over. This is called a preliminary breath test and may not be used as evidence at trial due to its reliability. However, it can be used to establish probable cause to arrest you for DUI. There is no penalty for refusing this test. The test offered at the police station is known as the evidentiary breath test, which can be used against you in court.
How Can a DUI Lawyer Help My Case?
There are several ways that a lawyer can help you with your DUI case.
Investigate the Case
Your DUI attorney’s job is to uncover the facts of the case so that your rights are protected and you get a fair hearing. The lawyer can review the arrest reports, video, the breath test logs, breath operator certification, and all other available evidence.
Flaws in the Breathalyzer Tests
Since breathalyzer tests are not always certified and calibrated, your lawyer may be able to prove that the test was flawed or the equipment was outdated. Your DUI attorney may also demonstrate that the police officer performed the test incorrectly or did not follow proper protocol during the arrest.
Negotiate with the Prosecutor
You may be in a position where the best strategy involves negotiating with the prosecutor. If so, your attorney may be able to meet with the prosecution to work out a plea agreement and reduce your sentence. An experienced DUI attorney understands how to paint a compelling picture of your character in order to obtain the best possible offer from the prosecutor.
Provide Valuable Legal Counsel
A professional Chicago DUI lawyer will have worked on hundreds of cases similar to yours. They understand the intricacies of Illinois law and have the skills necessary to help you with your case. An attorney can guide you through the legal process, answer your questions, and stop you from making mistakes that could harm your case.
Driver’s License Reinstatement
Even if you lose your driver’s license after a DUI conviction, an attorney may be able to help you with driver’s license reinstatement.
Schedule a Free Consultation Today
Don’t let a DUI charge ruin your future. If you have been arrested for a DUI, contact The Davis Law Group, P.C. Call (847) 390-8500 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free consultation with a Chicago DUI attorney. The DUI lawyers at our firm practice at courthouses throughout the Chicago area including Cook County, Lake County and DuPage County.