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Litigation Blog.
The seasoned lawyers and litigators at The Rubinstein Law Firm are here to share their insights with you.

Can I refuse a roadside breath test? What about a chemical test?

A breath test feels like an automatic part of any late-night traffic stop. Law enforcement officers are quick to reach for these portable devices as they request a breath test from a driver. In this situation, you might feel pressured – like you have to say yes.

Is that actually the case, or can you decline the breath test? And what about a blood test following an arrest? Read on for answers.

What happens if I refuse a roadside breath test?

Roadside breath tests are generally referred to as PBTs – preliminary breath tests. A law enforcement officer who has “reasonable cause” to believe a driver may be intoxicated or under the influence can ask that person to take a PBT. The results are admissible in court and could be used to build a case against the driver.

You can refuse this test, but there are penalties for doing so. A refusal, under Michigan law, is considered a civil infraction. You may be subject to a fine of up to $150, plus court fees. Also, if you are under the age of 21, you will get 2 points on your driving record. That is generally the extent of the damage.

Refusing a blood test after an arrest is a different story.

What happens if I refuse a blood test?

Michigan’s implied consent law means that, by choosing to drive a vehicle within the state, you are also consenting to a blood test. This is different from the PBT, which occurs before an arrest is made and is done with a handheld device. A chemical test will only be used after a driver is arrested on suspicion of drunk or drugged driving.

Refusing to submit to this test can come with serious administrative penalties that are separate from any subsequent criminal case. That includes:

  • The addition of 6 points to your driving record
  • A license suspension of at least one year – potentially longer for multiple refusals
  • Likely no possibility to obtain a restricted license on a hardship appeal

You do have the option to contest the alleged refusal. After the traffic stop in question, you have a short window to request an administrative hearing. At this hearing, you can then challenge the law enforcement officer’s claims. The officer will also have to demonstrate they met certain criteria as part of the traffic stop and arrest.

With a successful administrative hearing, you may be able to minimize these disruptions and set the record straight.