What Happens when You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test

On behalf of The Berger Firm Oct. 2, 2020

Traffic stops are stressful experiences that can understandably put drivers on edge. Some drivers may even make decisions that seem to make sense in the moment, even if they would have done differently in a less stressful situation. For example, drivers who are stopped on the suspicion of drunk driving might decide to refuse to take a Breathalyzer test. It’s a chemical test that is typically administered at the police station, as opposed to the preliminary breath test administered in the field. The PBT can be refused without legal consequences because it is not admissible in court as evidence, whereas refusal of a Breathalyzer or similar chemical test — which are admissible — will result in legal consequences.

In Kentucky, drivers give their implied consent to blood alcohol content testing. This simply means that in exchange for the privilege of driving, drivers implicitly consent to BAC testing if they are suspected of driving drunk. Refusing a Breathalyzer test may mean surrendering your privilege to drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — the NHTSA — reports that approximately 20% of people refuse BAC testing when asked.

It is possible that some people do not know about implied consent laws, which is why they choose to decline. However, others decline because they are worried that the results of their tests could be used to file criminal charges against them. Refusing a Breathalyzer does not mean that a driver will not face a DUI, though. He or she could still be charged based on officer observations, field sobriety tests or witness testimonies.

Kentucky state law takes drunk driving very seriously, so it is important that those accused of it do the same. After all, there is more than just driving privileges on the line. If convicted, drivers may face jail time and hefty fines even in the absence of a Breathalyzer test. In order to preserve one’s driving privileges and minimize potential criminal consequences, it makes good sense to secure experienced guidance through this process.