When you obtain a California driver license, you agree to submit to chemical test under California’s implied consent law. This law means that if law enforcement pulls you over, and has reason to believe you’ve been driving under the influence or alcohol or drugs, you are expected to take a chemical (breath, blood, or urine) test if they request one from you.
“Can I refuse?” If you refuse, your driver license will be automatically suspended, whether you were actually drinking alcohol or not. To learn more about California’s implied consent law under Vehicle Code Section 23610-23614, click here.
After you’re arrested for DUI, you can choose between a breath or blood test, but you must take the test at the time of the arrest. However, a driver who has not been arrested for DUI may still have a police officer ask him or her to take a preliminary breath test (PAS).
The police use the PAS test (a handheld breath test that’s conducted roadside) to establish probable cause that a suspect was driving under the influence. If the PAS test registers enough alcohol in a suspect’s system, the officer will arrest the person. No matter the situation, drivers’ hands are tied whether they submit to a chemical test or refuse.
What if I Haven't Been Drinking?
A driver who has not been drinking must also take a breath test, or they face the same consequences as a person who has been pulled over for drunk driving. Even if you have not been drinking, it may be in your best interests to take a BAC test. An officer who believes that you may be under the influence can arrest you, and you could be found guilty of a DUI even without BAC evidence.
A negative breath test when you have not been drinking will act in your favor. Refusal to take the test means that there is no proof that you were not driving under the influence when you were arrested. The court may further view the refusal as an admission of guilt for driving under the influence. Any driver pulled over on suspicion of DUI has the right to a DUI defense attorney, whether or not they were under the influence.