Living in Virginia is a pleasure for people of all ages. There’s so much that the state has to offer for those who live, work and play here. It is also a popular destination for thousands of vacationers throughout the year. When you get behind the wheel of your vehicle in Virginia, however, you have to follow all the rules of the road. What if you are pulled over for DUI? Do you have to take the breathalyzer test administered by the officer who initiated the traffic stop? Can you refuse it?
What is the Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS)?
If you are ever pulled over for suspicion of DUI in Virginia, the police officer that initiated the traffic stop will likely try to administer a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) device test at the scene of the traffic stop. You are well within your rights to refuse this test and you should refuse it. Why? The main purpose of the PAS device test is to establish probable cause to arrest you for DUI. And if the officer lacks probable cause to arrest you, information gathered after the arrest may be considered inadmissible. Even if you refuse the PAS device test, however, there is still a good chance you will be arrested. If this happens, you are taken to the police station and given the mandatory chemical test.
What is the Chemical Test?
The chemical test is issued once you are brought to the police station, and it can involve a test of your blood, urine, or breath, but usually it is a breathalyzer test. You can refuse the chemical test at the station, but it is not recommended. Refusing the mandatory chemical test will lead to the automatic suspension of your driver’s license under the implied consent laws of Virginia without the possibility of obtaining a restricted license.
Here are the penalties you could face if you refuse the chemical test under Virginia law:
- 1st offense: Suspension of your driver’s license for one year
- 2nd offense within 10 years: Suspension of your driver’s license for three years
- 3rd and subsequent offenses within 10 years: Suspension of driver’s license for three years
When you are taken into custody, the arresting officer is required to inform you that refusing the chemical test will not only lead to your license suspension, but the refusal could be used against you if your case goes to court. Refusing a chemical test for the first time will not be viewed as a crime. Refusing the chemical test for a second, third, or subsequent time, however, is charged as a misdemeanor, which becomes part of your criminal record.
It is important to note that the license suspension for refusing to take the breathalyzer test at the police station is over and above the administration suspension you receive when are arrested for DUI. The administrative suspension can last anywhere from seven to 60 days, depending on whether this is your first, second, or subsequent DUI arrest.
Should I Refuse the Test?
This is a valid question that many people accused of DUI ask. Your reasoning may be that if you refuse the test, it will weaken the prosecutor’s case, because they won’t be able to use the test results against you. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. Your refusal to take the test can actually be used by the prosecutor to argue that you are guilty of driving under the influence. On the other hand, if you take the test, there may be ways to challenge the results; for example, the test may be inaccurate because the test machine was faulty, or the test was administered improperly. A skilled DUI defense lawyer can thoroughly examine the specific circumstances of your case to determine if any of these defenses apply, and to explore every other potential legal avenue toward obtaining the most favorable outcome possible.
Pulled Over for DUI? Contact an Experienced Attorney Today
Were you pulled over for DUI in Virginia? Did you refuse the breath test issued by the officer who initiated the traffic stop? If so, there may still be ways to minimize the negative consequences of this mistake. Your first step is to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Call the office of St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana, LLP at 434-296-7138 to schedule an appointment today. Your rights and freedom are important and must be protected. Don’t let the refusal of a breathalyzer test in Virginia take away your freedom.