Refusing a breathalyzer test—what happens?

Jan 16, 2020 | drunk driving

Ohio residents and visitors may not know they have the legal right to refuse a breathalyzer test. Knowing your rights can help you make an informed choice if the police stop you for operating a vehicle under the influence of intoxicants. 

If police stop you for an OVI, they will ask you to take non-chemical field sobriety tests. Such tests include the infamous “walking in a straight line.” You have the right to refuse, and there is no penalty under the law. If the police officer still believes you are intoxicated, he or she can place you under arrest for an OVI. Your OVI arrest is currently considered circumstantial at this point. The officer has no tangible evidence of intoxication. 

Next, to get direct evidence, the officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol content. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles states that if you fail the test, the officer can immediately take your license. The suspension begins at this point per Ohio’s Administrative License Suspension regulations. Suspensions for a failed test can range from 90 days to five years. 

If you refuse the breathalyzer test, you avoid providing direct evidence, though you still face ALS penalties for refusal. Minimum suspension time is one year, and you may still face the OVI charge if you refuse. However, it is more difficult to prove the case in court if there is no direct evidence of intoxication. 

Knowing your rights under the OVI laws can help you make more informed decisions.