You’ve been pulled over. You are scared and on the side of the road. You squint at the flashing blue and red lights that are a few feet from your face. The police officer is scary. He asks you a few questions. You’ve been out having fun. You feel fine. Now you regret not using your turn signal to change lanes. No one was around so, why bother? He’s asked if you had something to drink. You certainly weren’t going to tell the truth and say a rum and soda. So you lied. But, you wanted to be believable so you didn’t answer “no”. Instead, you said “two beers.” You’ve been given a few tests to do. You think you did OK but you couldn’t “ace them” sober. The policeman asks you for one more test. If you pass it, you can drive away. He asks you to blow into a tube. Will you? What happens if you refuse?
The short answer is that you are likely to have your driving privileges in Louisiana suspended for refusing to take the breath test regardless of whether you think you are too impaired to drive. Louisiana is an implied consent state. That means you’ve already agreed that you will submit to any breath, blood, or urine testing when suspected of driving while intoxicated. You probably were unaware of this fact when you went to obtain your driver’s license. Unfortunately, consent to these forms of testing is a condition of obtaining a driver’s license in Louisiana. Over the years, the penalties for refusing breath, blood, and urine tests has increased dramatically. A person will have his license suspended for one year if it is his first refusal. The penalty doubles and your license is suspended for two years if it is the driver’s second refusal to submit to the blood, breath or urine test. Nevertheless, in many instances those individuals having their license suspended for refusing the breath test can still get a restricted license upon proof of having an interlock device and appropriate insurance coverage (SR-22). The Department of Motor Vehicles has handy links to authorized installers of the interlock machine and your insurance agent will know how to handle the SR-22 declaration. Refusing the breath test is a calculated choice. In many instances it is a prudent thing to do since submission will produce a result presumptive of guilt for drunk driving and your license will be suspended anyway.
But, should you refuse, just know there are consequences for that too. Obviously, the best advice is to use cabs or have a designated driver. Have fun. But, be responsible.
Andre Belanger is a former Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney who brings a wealth of trial experience to the courtroom. He is known for handling complex federal cases, drug conspiracies and homicides.If you’ve been arrested and need someone in your corner, you can contact the author at: