For many drivers, it is unclear what the penalty is for refusing a driving while intoxicated (DWI) test. Much of this confusion comes from the fact that there are different penalties for different tests. Police officers can suggest a field test, a breath test or a blood sample. Depending on what test you refuse, nothing could happen, you could lose your license, or you could even be charged with a separate crime.
In the United States, you cannot be punished for refusing a DWI test if it is either a field sobriety test or a breath test. The field sobriety test involves doing a series of physical and verbal tests to allow police officers to determine whether you were driving while intoxicated. You have the right to refuse this DWI test. Similarly, you have the right to refuse to take a breath test. The breath test uses a machine that determines your blood alcohol content by having you blow on a mouthpiece.
A third type of DWI test is the blood sample. This involves taking you back to the police station or a medical facility and removing blood from your system. From this blood, experts can determine whether your blood alcohol content was above the legal limit, which determines whether you were in violation of DWI laws. You do not have the right to refuse this test, and refusal to do so will result in as many as three different penalties.
First, by refusing a blood sample DWI test, you can be charged with a separate crime. When you apply for a driver's license, you are agreeing to Implied Consent, meaning that you essentially are agreeing to taking this test even before the crime is committed. Failure to agree to blood testing could result in an obstruction of justice charge or a similar accusation. This can leave you with a fine, parole or even jail time, depending on prior records.
Also, prosecuting attorneys can use this refusal against you in a court of law. In some states, refusing the blood DWI test is the same as admitting guilt. This can cause you to be found guilty in a DWI case, resulting in fines, parole or prison time.
A common penalty for refusing a blood test is losing a license. There is no set amount of time for which you will lose your license, and it frequently depends on the severity of the crime and your prior criminal record. Fortunately, if you are found innocent of the charge, your license usually is reinstated.