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Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer in Washington?

Posted by Aaron J. Wolff | Dec 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

"Should I refuse the breath test if I am arrested for DUI?"

If you get stopped for suspicion of drunk driving, you may be wondering whether you can refuse to take a Breathalyzer test under Washington law.

As with most drunk driving legal questions, the answer is complicated and confusing.

Washington has implied consent laws (RCW 46.20.308). These laws basically provide that if you drive in the state, you automatically give consent to take a breath or blood test to determine your blood alcohol content should an officer have a reasonable suspicion that you were driving drunk.

But even under implied consent laws, an officer usually cannot physically force you to blow into a device, if you resist or refuse (keeping in mind that there are some exceptions such as pursuing a search warrant to later extract your blood).

Instead, an officer may warn you of the legal consequences should you decline the breath test. These legal consequences can include having your driver's license revoked for one year through the administrative hearing process, even if it is later determined that you weren't actually impaired. This penalty is simply for refusing to take the breath test.

In addition, prosecutors may introduce the fact that you refused to take a breath test at a criminal trial (RCW 46.61.517). A skeptical jury may view the fact that you refused a breath test to essentially be an admittance that you were drunk and had something to hide.

Whether you choose to refuse a Breathalyzer test is a personal decision. But you should be aware that the consequences of refusing a test are oftentimes more severe than if you simply took the test. In addition, refusing a breath test is no guarantee that you won't be convicted. Prosecutors can rely on other evidence, including, as mentioned above, your refusal to take the test.

If you are arrested for a DUI in Kirkland, BellevueSeattle or anywhere else King County, you will want to work with an experienced DUI attorney. The award-winning attorneys at Wolff Criminal Defense can help you on your defense regardless of whether you took a Breathalyzer test. Call us at 425-284-2000 to receive a free, confidential consultation. You can also visit our website at to set up a consultation. Don't try to fight your case alone.

About the Author

Aaron J. Wolff

A former DUI prosecutor, Aaron Wolff has over 18 years of experience in representing people accused of DUI and is recognized as one of the leading defense lawyers in Washington State. His relentless and passionate advocacy has lead to superb ratings and outstanding reviews from former clients.


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