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Can you refuse a breath test during a Texas DWI traffic stop?

So you've gotten pulled over by law enforcement officers or swept up in a sobriety checkpoint or roadblock. Now, the officer talking to you wants you to submit to a chemical breath test. However, you know from reading about it that those breath tests aren't always that accurate.

You may worry about the risk of the test coming back totally wrong or perhaps that one drink earlier could show up as more alcohol than it actually is. Whatever the circumstances, if you find yourself thinking about refusing the test, there are certain things that you should know. If you don't take the breath test, you could still find yourself facing some legal complications.

Refusing the test violates the terms of your license

According to Texas state law, anyone driving on public roadways has already given implied consent to chemical testing. These rules are in place to help protect people on the roads by making it easier for officers to enforce impaired driving laws.

Agreeing to allow officers to test you if they suspect impairment is a condition of your holding a license in the state of Texas or legally driving on Texas roads even if your license is from another state. Although officers cannot compel you to perform a breath test during a traffic stop, you can face penalties for that refusal.

What are the consequences of refusing a breath test?

Chances are good that if you simply refuse the test, the officers involved in the traffic stop will arrest you. At that point, they will process you and potentially charge you with impaired driving. Additionally, they will cite you for violation of the implied consent law.

That citation results in the immediate revocation of your license for up to 180 days for a first refusal or two years for a second or third test refusal. Additionally, while you may stop police from gathering breath test evidence, that may not stop them from filing DWI charges against you.

Why refusing a breath test doesn't protect you from DWI charges

For some people, losing their license temporarily may seem like a reasonable trade-off for avoiding potentially expensive and embarrassing criminal charges related to impaired driving. However, police officers can and likely will still charge you with impaired driving even if they can't perform a chemical test. They can even testify that the refusal to perform the test is evidence that you knew of your impairment.

It's also important that you realize that police can obtain a warrant, even on holidays or over the weekend, to perform a blood test under Texas law. Even if you don't give consent, if there is a strong suspicion of impairment, the officers can likely obtain a warrant and use that to secure chemical evidence.

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