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When can police officers require a breath test from a driver?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2024 | Drunk Driving Defense

One of the reasons why police officers stop motorists is a suspicion of chemical impairment. It is also one of the scenarios in which a traffic stop might lead to an arrest rather than just a traffic citation.

If a police officer believes that someone may have had too much to drink, they can initiate a traffic stop to investigate the situation. If the circumstances seemingly support the officer’s suspicions, they may then take additional steps to gather the necessary evidence to pursue charges against the potentially intoxicated driver.

Officers trying to establish whether someone is drunk or not may ask a driver questions about their recent behavior and may also ask someone to perform a field sobriety test. Oftentimes, asking a driver to perform a breath test is one of the last steps in a drunk driving traffic stop. When does an officer have the authority to compel a driver to perform a breath test?

Drivers subject to arrest may have to perform a test

Technically, police officers can ask drivers test at any point during an interaction. However, refusing that request only triggers legal consequences in one specific scenario. Implied consent laws include language that requires that drivers submit to chemical testing when a police officer has probable cause to suspect impairment.

In other words, a test only becomes mandatory when an officer already believes they have reason to arrest someone for drunk driving. A violation of the implied consent law involves refusing to perform a test. An officer can proceed to arrest someone who does not perform a breath test using the probable cause that gave them a reason to request the test.

The state may then look at other evidence if they go to trial over their impaired driving charges. Drivers who understand their rights may have an easier time asserting themselves during an interaction with a police officer, which can be a stressful experience. Drivers can potentially refuse a request when an officer does not yet have probable cause to arrest them without facing any penalties.

Learning more about the rules that apply during a stop may help people explore their options for defending against impairment-related charges. Seeking legal guidance as proactively as possible, therefore, is generally wise after a stop that ends in an arrest.

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