Who hasn’t heard anecdotal stories about people being pulled over for driving under the influence and refusing to cooperate with field sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests because it’s their “constitutional right”? What you don’t hear about are the penalties that driver has simultaneously risked facing in doing so. Do you know the penalties for refusal to cooperate or, worse, for conviction of DUI?
So, you’ve been pulled over for suspicion of DUI, you’ve done all the right things with regard to minimizing what you say while being cooperative and polite and refusing the field sobriety and field breathalyzer tests. But you’ve been arrested, and you’ve made the decision to refuse the blood alcohol content (BAC) tests at the station. What then? Then you will be introduced to the term, “implied consent,” by an officer warning you about the penalties for refusing the test, which are significant and are difficult to weigh in the moment. In Illinois, implied consent means that, at the time you received your driver’s license, you in effect consented to submitting to a breath, blood, or urine test if requested by an officer who has probable cause to arrest you for suspicion of driving under the influence.
It’s important to know the penalties for submitting to and failing the test and penalties for refusal—for first or multiple offenses—even if your refusal did not allow the state to prove that your BAC was more than the legal limit of .08%. The penalty for refusing the BAC test includes automatic suspension of your license for one year for first time offenders and three years for multiple offenses. You also face suspension of your license if you submit to and fail the BAC test and are convicted of DUI. This includes a six-month suspension for first time offenders and one-year suspension for multiple offenses. The difference, however, is that refusal alone (without DUI conviction) is a civil case, and conviction (based upon evidence and/or results of a BAC test) is a criminal case with corresponding greater penalties.
In either case—you refuse or you consent to and fail the test—you face some pretty stiff and complicated penalties. And these penalties don’t include the ancillary effects on your auto insurance premiums. Weigh each penalty carefully and immediately consult with an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about the laws of your state and county and who can help you come up with a strategy for finding the best possible outcome to the situation.