Alabama’s implied consent law specifies that any person who operates a vehicle within the state is deemed to have consented to a blood, breath, or urine test to measure blood alcohol content (BAC). However, a driver is required to test only if lawfully arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). In other words, the officer must have reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving under the influence to request a BAC test. These chemical BAC tests are used to determine if a person is safe to drive or over the legal BAC limit and for evidence in DUI trials.
Implied consent can be withdrawn and a driver can refuse to submit to any requested chemical test. (Though there are consequences of doing so.) If a driver refuses to take a blood test, the officer will request a different chemical test, breath or urine. And if the driver still refuses a different test, certain consequences will follow. However, an officer can’t force a driver to test unless supported by some other authority—such as a warrant.
License suspension. Drivers who refuse a lawful request by an officer to take a breath or urine test are subject to driver’s license suspension. A first refusal will result in a 90-day suspension. A second or subsequent refusal within a five-year period will result in a one-year suspension. The suspension for a test refusal is separate from any criminal consequences resulting from a DUI conviction and can be imposed even if the DUI charge is ultimately dismissed.
Evidentiary uses. A driver may refuse a chemical test in hopes that a DUI conviction can be avoided. Some people believe that without the test results, a DUI conviction isn’t possible. However, Alabama law allows the evidence of the refusal to be admitted in any civil or criminal case related to the DUI. In other words, the prosecution can tell the jury that the defendant refused to take a BAC test. The jury can then consider the refusal as evidence of guilt—namely, that the defendant was trying to hide his or her intoxication. Thus, even without BAC test results, a person may still be convicted of driving under the influence.
Depending on the circumstances, drivers who are convicted of a DUI may be required to use of an ignition interlock device (IID) for a period of time. But for DUI offense involving a BAC test refusal, IIDs are mandatory, and the time period the driver must have the IID is longer than for non-refusal cases. For example, persons convicted of a first-offense DUI—who aren’t normally subject to a mandatory IID requirement—will be subject to a two-year IID requirement if they refused testing. And for second DUI offenders, the normal two-year IID requirement is doubled to four years for an offense involving a refusal.
Whether you are wondering if consent or refusal is wiser, or if you have already made the decision, a seasoned DUI attorney can help. License suspensions stemming from a chemical test refusal are separate from the criminal case and are handled in a separate proceeding. A DUI attorney can help you navigate both aspects of your case.