When you’re pulled over by an officer who suspects you of driving under the influence (DUI), it’s because you may have given them a good reason to. Perhaps you were using your brakes too frequently or having difficulty staying in a lane. Maybe you were swerving too much or failed to use your signal lights before a lane switch. Most erratic driving behaviors would catch officers’ attention, but they’ll need more evidence before charging you with DUI.
During a traffic stop, the officer will ask you to take part in several roadside tests to gauge your intoxication level. The officer can charge you with DUI if these tests reveal that you’re inebriated. You might think you can’t face charges if you don’t take the tests. However, by refusing the tests you open yourself to more penalties.
State law on refusing tests
According to Virginia law, it’s unlawful for anyone arrested on suspicion of DUI to refuse requests for testing.
An officer may have a driver undergo chemical testing of either their blood or breath for traces of alcohol or drug use. The driver can’t choose the type of test they’ll take, and if they attempt to refuse the officer is required to remind the driver that by operating a vehicle in the state, they’ve automatically consented to undergoing the tests per the state’s “implied consent” laws.
Penalties for refusal
If an officer reads you the implied consent rules but you still refuse to undergo testing, the officer can charge you for violating the law. Your license is also immediately suspended, and the officer will take it from you to deliver it to the magistrate for your court hearing.
Your penalties for refusing the tests depend on how many prior offenses you’ve committed; plus any DUI convictions you’ve had.
The penalties are:
- First violation: A conviction results in a civil offense on record. This is punishable by a one-year license suspension and is in addition to any suspension period you might incur for a DUI conviction.
- Violation within 10 years of a prior refusal or DUI conviction: A conviction leads to a Class 1 misdemeanor. The court will revoke your driving privileges for three years, on top of any suspension penalties you might have for a DUI conviction.
In summary, refusing a chemical test can lead to more punishments. Because refusal complicates a DUI case, you might want to retain legal counsel to understand your options better.