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Can one refuse a breath test at a DUI stop?

Police in Virginia set up checkpoints all over the commonwealth during the recent three-day holiday weekend in hopes of ensnaring drunk drivers. It is possible that motorists who were not even drunk were subjected to a DUI stop at these checkpoints.

Being stopped on suspicion of drunk driving can be frustrating and humiliating, particularly if sober. This may be especially true if one is asked to take a breath test. People in such situations may be tempted to refuse, but they should be aware that there are consequences for doing so.

In Virginia, as part of the privilege of driving comes "implied consent." This means that all motorists consent to chemical testing to determine their blood-alcohol content by police with probable cause to believe that the motorist is driving under the influence. If a person unreasonably refuses to submit, whether it is through a breath test or a blood test, there are penalties.

For a first offense, the motorist will have his or her driver's license suspended for one year, in addition to any other suspensions they may be penalized if convicted. For a second offense within 10 years of a first offense and conviction, the motorist will lose his or her driver's license for three years following the date of his or her conviction, in addition to any other suspensions he or she may be penalized with, if convicted.

So, Virginians should think carefully about whether to refuse a breath test. They may believe they have a good reason for refusing a breath test, but they should weigh this against the penalties they may face if they do so. With the right information, motorists in Virginia facing this situation can make a decision that they believe is in their best interests.

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Sevila, Saunders, Huddleston & White
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Leesburg, VA 20176

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