Breath Test Refusals

Should You Take a Breathalyzer Test During an OUI Traffic Stop?

It’s a common question for many motorists, what should you do if you are pulled over and a police officer asks you to take a breath test. If you weren’t drinking, the answer is obvious. However, this situation is a real concern if you had a couple of drinks but felt like you were safe to drive. Unfortunately, there is no universal answer when it comes to breath test refusals. On one hand, refusing a breath test may decrease the chances of being arrested for an OUI offense. At the same time, refusing a breath test in Massachusetts comes with consequences. Attorney Patrick J. Murphy is an experienced Boston OUI lawyer who aggressively represents clients charged with all types of drunk driving offenses. For more than 25 years, Attorney Murphy has successfully handled hundreds of OUI cases and knows what it takes to mount a compelling defense in even the toughest cases.

The Importance of a Breath Test

If a police officer pulls you over and suspects that you are under the influence of alcohol, they may ask you to take a breath test. In Massachusetts, there are two ways the government can prove that you were driving under the influence. First, it can present proof of impairment, usually through the introduction of chemical test results, such as a breath test.

The second way the prosecution can prove an OUI case is to present other evidence that you were driving under the influence. Examples of this include police officer observations, statements made to police officers, eyewitness testimony and circumstantial evidence suggesting that you were impaired.

Thus, if you deprive the prosecution of the ability to introduce breath test evidence, you may make it harder for them to prove the case against you. However, breath test refusals also result in automatic license suspensions, making the decision of whether to refuse a test a difficult one.

The Consequences of Refusing a Breath Test

There are no criminal consequences for refusing to take a breath test. However, there are administrative penalties for breath test refusals. Additionally, the officer can still arrest you for driving under the influence.

For example, if you refuse a breath test, the arresting officer may arrest you and will:

  • Physically take your driver’s license;
  • Issue you notice of license suspension;
  • Impound your car for at least 12 hours; and
  • Notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles of the suspension.

The length of time your license will be suspended for a breath test refusal depends on the number of prior OUI convictions on your record. For example, if you have never been convicted of a drunk driving offense, your licenses will be suspended for 180 days; one prior conviction results in a three-year suspension; two prior convictions in a five-year suspension, and three or more convictions will result in a lifetime suspension. These suspension times run separately from a suspension for being convicted of a Boston OUI offense.

When Refusing a Breath Test Might Make Sense

While the administrative penalties of a breath test refusal are harsh, there are times when refusing a breath test can make the prosecutor’s job in proving their case much harder. Thus, refusing a breath test may make sense in certain situations. While there are a few ways to get a suspended license reinstated, when you refuse a breath test, you should assume that your license will remain suspended.

Thus, one time when refusing to take a breath test might make sense is if someone has several prior DUIs and faced a long term of incarceration. In this situation, the driver may not be as concerned about their driving privileges and will be more focused on staying out of jail.

On the other side of that coin, there are those without a prior OUI conviction whose driver’s license is very important to them. For these people, the better option may be to take the test and try to work out a plea agreement with the prosecution, such as a “continuance without a finding.”

Contact an Experienced Boston Breath Test Refusal Attorney to Discuss Your Situation

If you were recently arrested and charged with an OUI offense, reach out to the Law Offices of Patrick J. Murphy. Attorney Murphy is a renowned Boston OUI defense lawyer with extensive experience helping his clients fight the allegations against them and keep their driver’s licenses. He also handles administrative hearings in front of the Registry of Motor Vehicles in cases where a client’s license was suspended for refusing a breath test, but the case against them did not end in a conviction. To learn more about how an experienced lawyer can help you fight OUI/DUI/DWI charges, and to schedule a free consultation today, give the Law Offices of Patrick J. Murphy a call at (617) 367-0450 .

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