Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Illinois?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense with significant consequences in Illinois. One crucial aspect of a DUI arrest is the chemical test, often a breathalyzer. But what happens if you refuse the test?

Legality of Refusal

Illinois is an implied consent state. This means that by operating a vehicle on the road, you implicitly consent to chemical testing if requested by a law enforcement officer with reasonable suspicion of DUI. However, you do have the right to refuse the breath test.

Consequences of Refusal

While refusing the breath test is your right, it comes with significant consequences:

  • Automatic suspension of your license. A first-time offender faces a one-year driver's license suspension for refusing the test. However, if you have previously refused testing, the suspension can be extended to three years.
  • Ineligibility for driving permits. During the suspension period, you cannot obtain a driving permit or hardship license.
  • Potential use of the refusal against you. Refusing the test cannot be used as sole evidence for a DUI conviction, and it can be used by the prosecution to strengthen their case against you in court.

Important Considerations

  • Seek legal counsel. Refusal is a complex decision with significant legal implications. Consulting with a DUI attorney is crucial to understanding your options and potential defense strategies.
  • Alternative tests. Even if you refuse the breath test, the officer might request a blood or urine test. While you cannot be forced to submit to these without a warrant, refusing them could also lead to harsher consequences.

Potential Defense Strategies If You Submit to a Breathalyzer Test.

Even with a positive test result, there are potential defense strategies an experienced DUI attorney can explore, including:

  • Illegal stops. Law enforcement officers must have a reasonable suspicion to pull you over. If not, your attorney might argue for the suppression of any evidence obtained during the stop, including the breathalyzer result.
  • Machine malfunction. Breathalyzers can malfunction. Your attorney can investigate the device's maintenance records and calibration history to identify any issues that might have impacted the accuracy of your test.
  • Improper administration. Chemical tests must be administered according to specific protocols. Any deviations, such as not waiting the required time since your last drink, can be grounds to challenge the results. In some cases, an officer may request you take a breath test after failing a field sobriety test (FST). However, FSTs must be administered correctly and under specific conditions. Improper administration can render the results unreliable. Factors like nervousness, fatigue, or certain medical conditions can also affect FST performance and should be considered.
  • Medical conditions (affecting the test). Certain medical conditions, like GERD or diabetes, can elevate blood alcohol readings without actual intoxication. Medical documentation can support this argument. 
  • Rising BAC. If you consumed alcohol shortly before driving, your BAC might have been rising at the time of the test, not reflecting your impairment while driving.
  • Passive inhalation. Spending time in an environment with secondhand smoke or open containers can lead to a breathalyzer reading even without drinking.

Depending on the specific circumstances, your attorney might explore the possibility of negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecution to potentially reduce the charges or penalties. It is important that you consult with a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible; they can help tailor your defense strategy based on your case specifics.

Talk with Our Attorneys

Johnson Law Group can help those facing DUI charges. When you retain our services, you can trust that we will help you understand the case legalities and help you mount a solid defense.

Get started on your defense today by calling (309) 565-8825.

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