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What if I refuse to take a DUI breath test?

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Posted on December 9, 2021

A police officer stops a motorist to try to gather enough evidence for an arrest. From the moment they pull you over, everything the officer does is with that goal in mind, including ordering you to take a breath test for suspected DUI.

In that sense, complying with the order to blow into the device is participating in the investigation against you. From that perspective, it sounds like declining to take the test would make sense, especially if you aren’t sure if you’re over the legal limit for blood-alcohol content. You can choose not to take the test — but doing so has serious consequences.

Illinois is an implied consent state. By driving a vehicle on a highway or street in Springfield, by implication you are agreeing to submit to any DUI chemical test when law enforcement demands it. Refusing to comply automatically triggers a suspension of your driver’s license.

1st versus 2nd offense punishments

If you have never refused a breath test before, your license will be suspended for 12 months. If you have at least one prior offense within the past five years, the suspension goes up to three years. Losing your driving privileges can be a huge hassle. If you are lucky, you may be able to use public transportation or a bicycle to get to work or school. Otherwise, you might have to rely on family, friends, rideshare services and taxis to commute and run errands.

A possible reprieve

For first-time offenders, the good news is that you might not have to wait a year to start driving again. You may be eligible for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit. Usually, this means that you must install an ignition interlock device into your vehicle. These machines monitor the alcohol on your breath and won’t let you start the engine if it detects any. While costly, this device does give you your independence back.

Now that you know what will happen, the decision to take the breath test or not if you get pulled over is up to you.