Last week, we discussed how you can avoid getting a DWI over the holiday season. One misconception some people have is thinking that if they don't submit to taking breath tests, they can't be charged for any crimes. There are some interesting points about that topic that our readers in Virginia might find very interesting.
When a person is pulled over under the suspicion of driving drunk, they aren't actually under arrest until the officer pronounces them under arrest. Before that point, the driver can refuse to submit to a preliminary breath test without facing a license suspension. If, however, the officer places the driver under arrest, the driver must submit to a blood test, a breath test or both. Failing to submit to the tests after being arrested can lead to penalties.
When you drive on a public roadway or in an area that is open to the public, you are subject to implied consent laws. This means that if you have been arrested, you have to submit to these tests. If you don't, you will have to sign a refusal form. Your license will be suspended for seven days.
Once your license is suspended for refusing a breath test, a judge will decide if your refusal was reasonable or unreasonable. If it is found that you unreasonably refused the alcohol test, your license will be suspended for a year. That is on top of any penalties you face if you are found guilty of a drunk driving charge.
With this in mind, it is imperative that you know your rights and understand how to assert those rights. This will allow you to make informed decisions if and when you are pulled over under the suspicion of drunk driving.
Source: Student Legal Services at Virginia Tech, "DUI FAQ" Dec. 23, 2014