You may have been pulled over and asked to take a breathalyzer test and have refused. When you get a driver’s license in South Carolina, you give implied consent to law enforcement to administer a roadside test for alcohol if they suspect that you are driving under the influence. The test may take the form of a breath or chemical test (usually administered at the station).
Some drivers make snap judgments at the scene not to comply with the police when they ask to perform a breathalyzer test. The police officer cannot physically force you to submit to one. Failure to follow this instruction can still result in automatic penalties. Law enforcement might still get a quick search warrant to perform a blood test for alcohol in time to prove that you were under the influence.
The officer will warn you at the scene that you are risking consequences if you do not submit to a breathalyzer test. In this post, Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey LLC will explain that although refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test is not a crime in and of itself, it will lead to additional punishments.
Refusing a Test Will Cost Your South Carolina Driver’s License
The first consequence of refusing the breathalyzer in South Carolina is that your license will be suspended for a period of six months if this is your first time refusing the test. There are no exceptions; the license suspension is a mandatory requirement.
If this was the second time that you refused a breathalyzer test, the license suspension would be nine months. The two periods of license suspension will be added together if you are still convicted of DUI.
There is a chance that you can get a temporary license at some point afterward, but the initial license suspension is immediate. The officer can issue a letter on the spot when you have refused a breathalyzer test. You could qualify for a license with the requirement of an ignition interlock if this was a first offense.
In addition, you will be required to complete the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program. You will need to undergo an evaluation and go through any necessary treatment. You must pay for this program out of your own pocket, and the cost can reach thousands of dollars depending on the recommendations.
You Can Still Be Convicted of a DUI
The results of the breathalyzer test are just one tool that law enforcement has to convict you. It is still possible to be convicted of DUI even without the results of a breathalyzer test.
The officer can testify against you based on their impressions of you when they made the traffic stop. They may have video camera footage of you at the scene that can make it appear that you were intoxicated.
Law enforcement can get a warrant to draw blood in time to show that you were intoxicated. The refusal to take a blood test can make the prosecutor tougher during your trial. They may not be willing to agree to a plea deal. If they do a plea bargain in your case, they may seek a tougher sentence. Alternatively, the judge can take a harsher view during the sentencing phase of your case.
There Are Still Possible Defenses
There may still be ways to defend yourself, even if you have been pulled over and refused to participate in blood alcohol testing.
One of the main defenses that you have is to challenge the traffic stop itself. The police officer will need to have reasonable suspicion to pull your car over. Reasonable suspicion is usually established by the way that the officer saw you drive. Then, the officer must have probable cause to make an arrest. If the traffic stop itself was invalid or if the officer did not have valid grounds to make the arrest, you can have the charges dropped entirely. You can also challenge the arrest if the officer did not properly read you your legal rights.
You will still need an attorney to evaluate your legal options if you have refused to consent to a breathalyzer test. Chances are that you may also be facing criminal penalties and need representation from an experienced attorney.
A DUI lawyer will review your case and explain the potential legal courses of action. You may choose to fight the charges or try to negotiate with the prosecutor. You can secure reduced charges or a lesser punishment. The important thing is to get legal help so you do not face punishment on your own without knowing your potential options.
Contact a Greenville DUI Defense Attorney
The law firm of Bannister, Wyatt, & Stalvey LLC is in its fifth decade of providing strong and effective legal representation to clients who have been charged with a crime. We know that you place your trust in us when you hire us to be your lawyer, and so we do everything we can to live up to that standard.
You can message us here or call us at (864) 523-7738 to schedule a case review.
South Carolina Breathalyzer Law FAQs
Can a refusal to take a breathalyzer test be used against me at trial?
Yes. The prosecutor may argue that your refusal to take the test may show that you had something to hide. Simply stated, it may not be a “good look” to the court.
Can I contest a license suspension for failure to take a breathalyzer test?
Yes. You have 30 days from the time that the officer issued the notice of license suspension to contest it.