Should I Take a Breathalyzer Test?

Published: 22nd February 2010
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Drinking and driving is risky business and it can have dire consequences. Not only does driving under the influence increase the likelihood of traffic accidents, serious injuries and even death, at minimum it can cause a driver to pay hefty fines, lose their driver's license or even serve jail time.

Massachusetts has tough "zero tolerance" drunk driving laws. There are three designations for drivers who have been drinking: drunk driving, or Operating Under the Influence of Liquor (OUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), or Driving Under the Influence (DUI). None of the three classifications are tolerated. Melanie's Law, signed into law in 2005 enhanced the punishment and administrative sanctions for Massachusetts OUI offenders.

A person convicted for their first DUI offense faces a two-and-a-half year jail sentence, $5,000 in fines and the loss of driving privileges for one full year. A second offense can lead to driver's license revocation for two years. The required use of an Ignition Interlock Device may also be mandated. This is an apparatus installed in a vehicle that will not allow the car to start unless the operator passes a breathalyzer test.

Blowing into a breathalyzer ensures a reading of Blood Alcohol Content or Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). This test measures the concentration of alcohol in a person's blood and determines whether the driver is within the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle or if they are intoxicated. The legal limit in Massachusetts is .08 and anything over this reading is considered a violation of the law. One 12-ounce beer, a four-ounce glass of wine

or a one-ounce serving of 80-proof liquor, even if contained in a mixed drink, can raise someone's BAC by .02. A BAC reading is always used by the state when they pursue criminal charges.

Harsh laws and penalties and strict BAC limits have people wondering if it's better to refuse a breathalyzer test when it is requested by law enforcement at a traffic or DUI stop. While refusing to take a breathalyzer guarantees no BAC will be taken and used against later in a court of law, such a decision comes with its own set of consequences.

Refusing to take a breathalyzer simply means that you decline or say no when you are asked to voluntarily blow into the machine to have your BAC evaluated. Intentionally refusing to cooperate by not blowing enough air into the machine is the same as refusing to take the test altogether. Refusing to participate in the test may result in your immediate arrest if the officer feels he or she has substantial reason to believe you are illegally operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.

A first time breathalyzer refusal, or a chemical test refusal, results in the automatic suspension of a driver's license by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles for at least 6 months. This also means a hardship license is not an option. The hardship license allows convicted OUI offenders to drive during a 12-hour period throughout the day to ensure they are able to get to and from work. Those who refuse the breathalyzer are automatically disallowed from applying for a hardship. A second-time breathalyzer refusal results in a three-year suspension and the penalties continue to increase for third, fourth and fifth timers.

The kicker is, if you refuse a breathalyzer and are found guilty of an OUI charge, additional penalties will run consecutively with the ones imposed as a result of the refusal. In other words, if your refuse the test and then are found guilty of OUI, you get you license suspended for six months for each issue, so you cannot drive for one full year.

Within 15 days of a driver's license suspension that resulted from a breathalyzer refusal, the driver has the right to a Registry hearing and has the right to be legally represented at that hearing. The hearing addresses the following three issues - did the officer have reasonable grounds to believe the driver was intoxicated? Was the driver placed under arrest? Did the driver refuse to take the test? If the driver does not receive a favorable outcome at the hearing, he or she can appeal the suspension to a higher court.

If you decide to refuse a breathalyzer test, you still have a chance at beating the case. Also, if you decide to blow into the machine, fail the test, and are arrested for OUI, DUI or DWI, the right lawyer can still beat the case. Either way, you will need good legal representation.Dealing with agencies such as the Registry of Motor Vehicles can be frustrating, confusing, and sometimes difficult. Our ma dui attorneys are familiar with RMV regulations and procedures as well as the laws governing ignition interlock devices, license suspensions and hardship licenses. There is no reason to struggle alone with complicated laws and harsh penalties.

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