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What does Washington law say about refusing a breathalyzer test?

You’re heading home after a couple drinks with friends. Confident that you’re fine to drive, the last thing you expect to hear is the whir of a police siren and see the flash of lights in your rear view mirror. As the officer approaches your car, you begin thinking about a breathalyzer test.

You consider your options. Should I take the test and risk a drunk driving charge? Or refuse? What you may not know, is the law regarding breathalyzer tests is clear.

Implied consent

Anyone licensed to operate a vehicle in the state of Washington has already agreed to take a breathalyzer test. The law is called implied consent. By simply acquiring a driver’s license, you agree that a police officer can administer a breathalyzer test at their discretion.

The police officers role

If an officer has reasonable grounds to believe you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can administer a breathalyzer test. The law gives them broad discretion for administering the test, and reasons can include your driving behavior or sensing the odor of alcohol.

What is refusal?

If you refuse to take the breathalyzer test, you may open yourself to harsher penalties. Refusal results in a one year suspension of your license, and your refusal can be used against you in court.

The bottom line is taking a breathalyzer test in Washington State is mandatory if an officer suspects you of driving under the influence. While you can refuse the test, it is often not in your best interest to do so.

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