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Breathalyzer tests: Are they optional?

You are driving down the road minding your own business, and then it happens -- you see the lights flashing in your rearview mirror and a police officer asks you to pull over to the side of the street. Of course, you comply. After talking to you, the officer pulls out a Breathalyzer machine and asks for a sample? What do you do?

Anytime a police officer in Massachusetts suspects a person is driving under the influence of alcohol, he or she will ask for a breath sample and likely request that the suspect also perform field sobriety tests as well. It is standard procedure. However, just because that is so, does it mean that you must comply?

Implied consent and refusing anyway

When you registered as a driver, whether in Massachusetts or elsewhere, you agreed to implied consent laws. This means quite a few things, but in terms of drunk driving, it means that you agreed to submit to breath and other chemical testing if an officer requests it. That said, you still have the legal right to refuse. Confused? Most people would be.

It is your legal right to say no to a Breathalyzer test, but doing so may have consequences. According to implied consent laws, what may the consequences be for refusing breath tests? They tend include:

  • Revocation or suspension of your license
  • Jail time

Either of these can have a significant impact on your life, personally and professionally.

Is it worth it then?

There is a lot at stake by refusing to give a breath sample when you are suspected of DUI. Of course, there is a lot at stake if you do comply. Breathalyzer machines are not 100 percent accurate. This means that you could get a false positive reading. In order to fight that, you would need to prove that the machine was defective, not properly calibrated, not cleaned or a number of other things that can affect its accuracy. This is not always easy to do.

You should never feel forced to give a Breathalyzer sample. You can say no if you feel it is in your bests interests, and it just may be. If you do decide to take a stand and not comply to an officer's request, you can seek help in dealing with the consequences that may follow.

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Anthony M. Salerno, P.C.
306 Main St.
Worcester, MA 01608

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