When offering advice about what to do if the police stop you for a suspected DUI, some people say “refuse the breath test.” Other people say, “if you refuse a breath test, your license will be suspended.” It can be confusing to know what to do. That is because there are two types of breath tests that police and the state patrol use in Georgia, and each one should be treated very differently.

Portable Breath Test

The portable breath testing device is known by many names, such as the field breath test, breathalyzer, preliminary breath tester or alcosensor. This device is a smaller, handheld breath testing device that police use in roadside stops. Usually, after the police stop a car for a traffic violation or on suspicion of DUI, they will talk to the driver to try and establish whether the driver may be intoxicated. If the police suspect a driver is under the influence of alcohol, they may ask them to blow into the preliminary breath tester. However, before you chose to give the police your breath sample, you need to know that this is not required. You can refuse to give a portable breath test.

In many cases, refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test may be a wise decision. These devices can be highly inaccurate. There are many common sources of errors for these devices that could result in an intoxicated alcohol reading, even if the driver has not consumed any alcoholic drinks, such as some types of gum, mouthwash, cough medicine, or environmental chemicals. The police officer may imply that if you're not drunk then there is no reason to refuse a breathalyzer test, but a false reading is one obvious reason not so submit to a test that is not accurate enough for the police to use as evidence in court against the driver.

Evidentiary Breath Test

The breath testing machines at most police stations are much larger devices, and are used to produce court-admissible BAC results. If you are asked to give a breath test for one of these devices, then it usually means you have been placed under arrest for driving under the influence, and taken to the police station. If you are arrested for a DUI, then the implied consent law requires you to submit to chemical testing. If the police ask for a breath test, then you have to give a breath sample. The consequences for refusing to submit to a breath test in this case will mean that you lose your license for a full year.

Although a DUI can lead to a suspended license anyway, the suspension for refusing a chemical test does not allow for a limited driving permit to let you go to and from work or school, or other limited privileges. Suspensions for refusals mean no driving at all for a year. The only way to challenge an automatic Georgia driver's license suspension is to request a hearing in writing, and pay the administrative fee. After your arrest, you only have ten days to request the hearing, or you have impliedly waived your chance to challenge the administrative suspension.

Implied Consent Defense in Atlanta

If you submitted to a breath test in an Atlanta DUI, whether your results showed you were over or under the legal limit, you still have a chance to challenge those findings. If you or a loved one have been arrested for driving under the influence in Atlanta, call me anytime, and I will make sure you are treated fairly by the courts and the state. Just because the machine says you were intoxicated does not mean that you have to plead guilty.