When a police officer pulls you over because they suspect you are drunk, their goal is to gather evidence that proves their suspicions. They will ask you questions and have you step out of the vehicle to help them affirm that you are likely under the influence.
A chemical breath test is often the final evidence that a law enforcement officer requires to arrest someone or build a case to charge them with a criminal offense. As someone dealing with a police officer, it is important for you to know your rights, including the right to not implicate yourself in a criminal case.
Can you refuse a chemical breath test during a driving while intoxicated (DWI) traffic stop in Texas?
The law technically requires you to submit
Texas has an implied consent law that affects everyone on the public roads. Anyone arrested for impaired driving has already given consent for the collection of specimens for chemical testing. However, years ago, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that aspects of this law were unconstitutional, and that someone must consent for the state to collect a sample of their breath, blood or urine.
This ruling creates a system where police must get permission or a warrant before collecting samples from defendants. However, it did not eliminate penalties for refusing the tests. The state can still suspend someone’s license for 180 days. That suspension may increase to up to two years for those with prior DWI offenses on their records.
How do you respond in the moment?
Refusing the test won’t ensure you avoid criminal charges, and it can lead to additional consequences, like the loss of your license. When you understand that refusing to submit to a chemical test can create a secondary consequence in addition to whatever DWI penalties you may face, you may think more carefully about how you respond to the officer.
Some people might choose to perform the test and then challenge the accuracy of the results later. Others might prefer to refuse the testing and deal with the consequences the refusal creates. Understanding the law is an important starting point for those trying to assert themselves while dealing with police officers or facing DWI charges.