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Refusing an alcohol breath test: Rights and consequences

On Behalf of | Feb 29, 2024 | Criminal Defense

For an officer to charge a driver of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Rhode Island, they must first determine if the driver is truly inebriated. They could ask the driver to participate in field sobriety tests or chemical tests.

One such chemical test is the breath test, more popularly known as the breathalyzer test. It involves the driver blowing into a device that measures their breath alcohol content (BAC) levels. If the device detects at least .08% BAC from the driver, an officer can charge the person with DWI.

Can you refuse a breath test if you’re pulled over for a suspected DWI? This blog will explain that while you can refuse to undergo a breath test, there are consequences.

To participate or not?

Under Rhode Island law, you’ve given “implied consent” to chemical testing by operating a vehicle in the state. This means you’ve indirectly agreed to be tested for alcohol if you’re suspected of driving under the influence. But you do have the right to refuse the test.

The immediate consequences for refusing testing

Refusing a breathalyzer can lead to immediate penalties. A magistrate can suspend your license for six months to a year for a first offense. A judge or magistrate may also impose up to $500 in fines and order you to perform up to 60 hours of community service. In addition to these, the judge can also require you to attend a course on impaired driving.

Note that these penalties are separate from the ones you potentially face for a DWI conviction.

Refusing a breathalyzer test in Rhode Island is a serious decision with significant consequences. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to understand your rights. If you refuse to undergo testing and are facing separate charges for DWI, you’ll need to carefully navigate the hearing process. A legal professional with criminal defense experience may be able to guide you through the court procedure and plan your defense.