What Every Driver Needs To Know About Implied Consent Laws

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What’s one big mistake that many drivers make when they get pulled over and the officer asks if they’re driving under the influence of any drugs or alcohol? Besides flat out answering “yes,” which is an automatic admission of guilt and essentially ruins any chance of getting a DWI charge dropped or reduced, another major mistake is refusing to take a field sobriety test, breathalyzer test, or chemical test (in a medical facility) that measures the driver’s BAC (blood alcohol content) and determines if he/she is driving under the influence of any drugs. Here’s why it’s such a big deal to refuse to take these tests:

The Legislation:

First of all, it’s important to realize that every single state has a particular law (applied specifically to drunk driving and drug-related traffic violations) called an “implied consent” law. As the name suggests, this law means that if a police officer suspects that someone is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer can request that the driver perform a field sobriety test and/or a chemical test — and the driver has already consented to comply with this request when he/she was given a driver’s license.

The Tests:

If a police officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of a drug that impairs his/her ability to drive — even a legal prescription drug — that driver will be taken to a medical facility for a urine and/or blood test. If the driver is suspected of driving while intoxicated, cops will usually ask the driver to perform field sobriety test on the side of the road, like walking in a straight line. If the driver fails this test, the cop can ask the driver to take a chemical test. Here, the driver has a choice. A breathalyzer test can be given on the roadside, or he/she can request to have a urine/blood draw test (not on the roadside).

The Penalties:

Basically, it’s very difficult to get out of taking a test. If you refuse to give consent, the police officer can request a warrant to have a chemical test administered anyway. This is not a good situation, even if the test results come back negative, because it implies that you’re trying to hide something. Drivers who refuse to take a test usually have their driving privileges suspended immediately, and if drivers end up with a DWI conviction as well, the penalties can include more jail time, steeper fines, and mandatory substance abuse classes. See this link for more.