Washington DUI: Refusal to Take a Blood or Breath Test

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that no one may be compelled to testify against themselves in a criminal case. When it comes to the alleged offense of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (“DUI”), however, the laws of the state of Washington allow police to gather evidence they could use against you in the form of blood alcohol content (BAC) evidence. BAC can be measured with a breath test, known as a breathalyzer, or by collecting a blood sample for lab analysis. The issue of whether a person may refuse to submit to a blood or breath test is a matter of perpetual court review, but Washington’s criminal statutes purport to make it mandatory after an arrest for alleged DUI. A Washington criminal defense attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations in a DUI case.

Implied Consent

Washington law states that anyone driving a car or other vehicle within the state is consenting to a blood or breath test after an arrest for suspected DUI. The arresting officer must have reasonable suspicion that the person was driving or had physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance, i.e. drugs or alcohol. In the absence of a person’s express consent, the officer may also obtain a warrant to take a blood sample.

The officer must give specific warnings to the person, prior to administering the breath test, that a refusal to take the test will result in license suspension and could be used as evidence at trial, and that test results showing BAC of at least 0.08 percent or over for a driver age 21 or over, or 0.02 percent for a driver under 21, will result in immediate license suspension. The officer must also advise the person regarding eligibility for license reinstatement.

License Revocation After Refusal to Take Test

A refusal to submit to a blood or breath test after arrest results in immediate license suspension or revocation under state law. For a person who has not refused a blood or breath test in the previous seven years, the suspension or revocation lasts one year. Subsequent refusals within a seven-year period result in a two-year suspension or revocation, or one lasting until the driver turns 21, whichever is later. After a suspension or revocation, a driver may be able to apply for an ignition interlock driver’s license.

Sentencing After Refusal to Take Test

Upon a conviction for DUI, the sentence a court must impose may vary based on the driver’s BAC test results or their refusal to take a blood or breath test. For a first, second, third, or fourth DUI conviction, state law imposes a higher minimum penalty if the driver’s BAC was 0.15 percent or higher, or if the driver refused the test.

The U.S. Constitution protects you from overreach by police and prosecutors, and courts have rules and procedures to protect those rights. You should consult with an experienced Washington criminal defense lawyer if you are facing a charge for an alleged DUI offense. Timothy L. Healy knows Washington’s criminal laws and has over fifteen years of experience in the court systems in Bellevue, King County, and elsewhere in Washington state. Contact us today online or at (888) 312-3093 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.