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What Does It Mean that California has an Implied Consent Law?

If you are ever stopped by an officer that suspects you may have been drinking, you may be given a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test. This is a test that is administered via a hand-held breath-testing unit that is sometimes more commonly referred to as a Breathalyzer. 

Some people may be under the assumption that all they have to do to avoid prosecution is to simply refuse to take the PAS test. In the past, this may have resulted in a trip to a police station for another type of test to be administered, by which time a borderline blood alcohol content (BAC) level may have normalized. For instance, a BAC over .08% is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol. Your body is constantly metabolizing alcohol, however, so if you stopped drinking at 8:00 pm and had a BAC of .08%, then by 9:00 pm it would most likely have metabolized enough to make it safe to drive. 

By refusing to take a PAS test, many people mistakenly assume this will simply give them more time to take some type of test, thereby giving their body more time to process the alcohol. In California, however, there is something called the admin per se or "implied consent" law. When people in California apply for a driver's license, they sign a waiver stating that they will comply with a PAS test if they are pulled over. Therefore, simply refusing to take the test in and of itself will result in the immediate suspension of your license for one year. 

It doesn't matter if you know you signed away your right to refuse a PAS test when you got your license or not, you won't be given a license unless you sign the waiver even if you don't know that's what you are doing. In some cases, simply getting a one-year suspension of your license may actually be a lesser penalty than actually driving under the influence of alcohol, so some drivers may simply choose to take the suspension rather than the PAS test. 

In addition, drinking of any kind is also illegal if you are under the age of 21. If a driver under the age of 21 is pulled over and their BAC is as much as .01, their license can also be suspended for up to one year.