Seeing blue lights in one’s rearview mirror can be a frightening experience, especially when alcohol is involved. Even a couple of small drinks could result in a whirlwind of fines and penalties. The topic of refusing a breath test is one highly debated across the nation. Currently, Virginia is one of only a few states that enforces penalties for refusing to take a breathalyzer test.
As The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia reported in June 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decided to continue enforcing penalties to any Virginia driver who refuses a breath test. Explaining that driving is a privilege and not a right, the ACLU goes on to state that Virginia drivers give “consent” to a breathalyzer test upon getting behind the wheel. While refusing a breath test could come with criminal consequences, the Supreme Court noted that refusing an intrusive blood test did not constitute a criminal offense. The Supreme Court also considered the safety of drivers a higher priority than an individual’s Fourth Amendment protections.
The Virginia State Law’s website gives a straightforward outline of laws surrounding the refusal of a breathalyzer test, stating that it is unlawful for a person who has been in violation of drunk driving (or a similar offense) to refuse a test. Should a driver refuse to take the test, they could face a civil offense. A civil offense could result in license revocation for up to one year. The charges can become more serious when the driver has had a past DUI, or DUI-related charge, within 10 years prior to the date of the test refusal. Submitting to a test is not always a simple task, but losing one’s license as a result could add more stressors to the situation.