An Austin American Statesman article recently addressed the issue of blood alcohol test refusal. According to the article, in Texas, politicians, prosecutors and judges refused blood alcohol tests 100% of the time when stopped for suspicion of DUI. The average Texan refused to take a test only 50% of the time.
As in Texas, California has its own implied consent law governing the issuance of licenses within the state. A California Licensee agrees to submit to a blood alcohol test as a condition of being issued the license. If he or she refuses, their license is suspended automatically for year–even if the DUI case is dropped or dismissed. In California, certain procedures by the police must be followed before a “refusal” is legitimate. With competent representation, a license suspension for refusal can often be challenged. However, if the driver refused and the proper procedures were followed, it is likely that they will lose their license for a year–a significant burden in cities like Los Angeles where people are married to their automobiles.
Of course such a license suspension should be weighed against the consequences of taking a blood alcohol test, especially in light of inaccuracies and issues with breathalyzer machines discussed here. Without such a test, the prosecution usually has no physical evidence of impairment, and is required to rely on the testimony of the officer–significantly weakening the prosecution’s case and raising the issue of reasonable doubt.
The Statesman’s article demonstrates that politicians, prosecutors and judges are aware of DUI laws and procedures, and are therefore able to make informed decisions tailored to their individual circumstances. By contrast, the average citizen is usually unaware that they have two problems to deal with: 1. the criminal case; and 2. the DMV administrative action against their driver’s license; to say nothing of the complex web of other laws and procedures that are inherit in a DUI charge.
Perhaps articles like the ones above will inform and educate the public of their rights and options, so the privileged few are not the only ones “in the know.”