Know Your Rights When Asked To Take A Breathalyzer Exam

Being pulled over by a police officer can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience. In the moment it can be difficult to remember what your rights may be, and even more difficult to assert those rights. The best defense, however, is knowledge, and being informed is often the best way to protect yourself against the possibility of misconduct by law enforcement.

Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

In Iowa there are two different types of breathalyzer tests:

  • A preliminary (sometimes called a portable) breath test (PBT)
  • A breathalyzer test

The preliminary breath test is a small instrument that most officers carry with them in their car. It is not conclusive evidence that you have been driving while intoxicated because it is not always 100% accurate. Rather, officers will use this test as evidence to possibly arrest you on suspicion of drunk driving, so that they can conduct further, more accurate, testing at the law enforcement complex.

Under Iowa law, you are not obligated to submit to a PBT and you can refuse without serious consequences. However, if the officer believes that he has sufficient evidence to suspect that you may be driving drunk (known as probable cause), he may arrest you anyways. Therefore, refusing a PBT is not always particularly helpful in avoiding arrest.

Refusing a Breathalyzer Test After Arrest

Regardless of whether you refuse a PBT test, if you are arrested you will likely be subjected to a more accurate Breathalyzer or Intoxilyzer test. Under Iowa’s implied consent law, all residents who drive on Iowa’s roads implicitly consent to Breathalyzer tests.

Implied consent does not require you to take a breathalyzer test. They can’t force it upon you. However, it does mean that if you refuse, certain penalties will be applied. When you refuse a breathalyzer for the first time, you will automatically have your license suspended for one full year. The length of time increases with each additional violation. After 90 days, you can apply for a temporary restricted license.

For those who may have a commercial driver’s license, the consequences are even more serious. Refusal to submit to a Breathalyzer exam means that you will be prohibited from operating a commercial vehicle for a year after your refusal. This can essentially mean a loss of a job.

Another important consequence of refusing a Breathalyzer test is that your refusal can be used against you in court, as state prosecutors will be allowed to argue that you refused the test because you were intoxicated.

In some circumstances it may make sense to refuse a test, particularly if you are suspicious that a test has been tampered with, or you have been on medication that you believe may affect your test results. In many other scenarios, the refusal may not be to your advantage because you have already been arrested. Ultimately, you must make the decision that is right for you, and knowing your rights at the time will help you to do so.

Seeking the Assistance of Qualified Criminal Defense Counsel Like Jonathan D. Schmidt After An Arrest

Whether you refuse a PBT or a Breathalyzer, or submit to every test requested, it is important that you find an experienced and knowledgeable representative like Jonathan D. Schmidt to guide you through the DUI / OWI / DWI defense process. To find out more about how he can assist you, contact us online or at (319) 423-3031.