What Happens If I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Louisiana?
While you may have given your “implied consent” to a blood, breath, or chemical test if you’re arrested for DUI in Louisiana, make sure you know what tests you actually must perform and what happens if you refuse.
Field Sobriety TestsSpecifically, you can refuse an officer's request to submit to any field sobriety tests (FST) without any consequence or risk to your license. FSTs include such familiar evaluations as the "walk and turn" test, "one leg stand" test, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, where the officer shines a penlight or other stimulus into your eyes and instructs you to follow it to the left and to the right. These tests are often unreliable and if you fail them, the officer will likely have a video of the test that can be used as powerful evidence against you. If police ask you to participate in a field sobriety test, you should respectfully refuse.
Preliminary Alcohol Screening TestIn addition to asking you to perform FSTs, the officer may ask you to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test. More commonly referred to as a breathalyzer test, the PAS test requires you to blow your breath into a device that calculates your possible blood alcohol level. However, the handheld breathalyzers used by police during traffic stops are notoriously unreliable and can produce false and inflated BAC readings that prosecutors will try to use as evidence of your intoxication.
Even though you have consented to BAC testing, you can refuse the roadside PAS test and instead request a blood or breathalyzer test at the police station. If you have been arrested for suspicion of DUI, we recommend that you do exactly that.
Penalties for RefusalIf, however, you refuse to allow any BAC testing, whether at the traffic stop or at the police station, you will face automatic penalties for doing so.
Louisiana law requires that officers arresting a person for suspicion of DUI must read an "Implied Consent Warning" outlining the possible consequences of refusing to submit to a test. If you refuse after being read the warning, those consequences will become very real, very fast. Specifically:
o Automatic license suspension. If this is your first refusal, your license will automatically be suspended for 180 days. After three months, you may be able to obtain a "hardship license" reinstating your driving privileges, but obtaining such a reinstatement is far from guaranteed. Subsequent refusals will result in a 545-day suspension of your license with no chance of getting a hardship license.
o Fines and jail time. Refusing BAC testing can itself be a crime if you have refused two or more times before, or if your suspected drunk driving caused a death or serious physical injury. Upon conviction, you could be subject to fines of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI or DWI in New Orleans or elsewhere in Louisiana, please contact an attorney right away. Experienced criminal defense attorneys always stand ready to vigorously protect your rights, and will work tirelessly to obtain the best possible result so you can move forward with your life.