The state of California takes driving under the influence (DUI) very seriously. In fact, California takes driving under the influence so seriously, that refusing to submit to chemical testing to determine the amount of drugs or alcohol in the system when suspected of driving under the influence can expose a person to the risk of an automatic driver’s license suspension / revocation, as well as additional legal charges.
To say the least, the penalties for being found guilty of driving under the influence are heavy, but they are even heavier if a person refuses to submit to chemical testing.
What Chemical Testing Is
Chemical testing is a process by which a sample of a person’s blood, breath or urine is collected and analyzed to determine the overall amount of alcohol in the person’s system. If the test returns a result of .08% or higher, then it means that the person is above the legal limit and can be formally arrested and processed for driving under the influence. If the person suspected is not yet legal drinking age, then the presence of any amount of alcohol in the system will be enough for the person to be charged with an offense.
In terms of either blood, breath, or urine, blood analysis is considered the most accurate, but the methods that are currently used to determine alcohol levels are not free from error, and methods of analysis generally allow for a .005 to .02% rate of error. When submitting to a chemical test, it is better to choose blood or urine, as these will produce samples which a defense attorney can have analyzed by an independent lab.
What Chemical Testing is Not
Submitting to a chemical test, even if the test reveals a result that is over the legal limit, is not an admission of guilt nor an abandonment of rights. Just because a person has chosen to do what was in his or her best legal interests by submitting to the test, it does not mean that he or she is automatically guilty or that the rest of his or her rights have been lost. Simply submitting to a chemical test does not require the suspect to carry on any conversation or answer any questions regarding an investigation and pending charges.
Further, a chemical test is not conducted on the side of the road. Tests conducted by portable breath test devices, which do analyze breath, are not as accurate as the full size breath test machines which are usually statically posted in police or hospital offices and plugged into a main power source – therefore, portable breath tests are not required by law and may be refused. As can field sobriety tests, which are also conducted by the side of the road, and which do not offer an accurate measurement of the amount of alcohol that a person may have in his or her system. Anyone who refuses these side-of-the-road tests should keep in mind and be prepared, however, that their refusal will most likely trigger a detainment, which will most likely involved being handcuffed and maintained in police custody.
Doing any kind of police contact, the right to remain silent should be exercised as quickly as possible, to ensure full protection under the fifth amendment, which guarantees the right not to testify or incriminate oneself. The police should be allowed to proceed with their procedures without any comment from the suspect, and the suspect should request legal counsel until such counsel is provided, or until the suspect has had the opportunity to secure legal counsel at his or her own expense, which is typically recommended because public defenders are notoriously overworked and pressured to push clients into plea deals.