If You Are Pulled Over for a DUI, Do You Have to Take the Breathalyzer Test?

DUI-1-300x200In almost every DUI case that I sign up, the client wants to know whether they were right to take a Breathalyzer Test or whether they made the right decision to refuse to take the Breathalyzer Test. It’s so common that I often answer the question before the client asks the question. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to that question. That’s because there can be serious consequences when you decide whether to take the test or refuse to take it. In Illinois, the mere refusal to submit to a Breathalyzer Test carries a mandatory 12 month suspension of your Illinois driver’s license. If you take the Breathalyzer Test, and the result shows that the blood alcohol content was over the legal limit of 0.08 or above, your Illinois driver’s license will be suspended for 6 months. This is known as the Statutory Summary Suspension. These suspensions kick in 46 days after the date of your DUI arrest. If you have had a DUI within 5 years of your current DUI, the suspension of your license for taking a Breathalyzer Test can be 12 months, and a refusal would be a 36 month suspension of your license. Even if you don’t have an Illinois driver’s license, your driving privileges in Illinois will be suspended during the suspensions and this could affect your out-of-state driver’s license as well. This could be important for people who live outside of Illinois with an out-of-state license who need to drive in Illinois for work. Since deciding whether or not to submit to a breathalyzer is not a straight-forward decision, let’s talk about the different factors that should come into play when making this decision.

In most DUI cases, the police officer will request that you take a breathalyzer test. If the officer suspects that you may be under the effects of illegal drugs, the officer may ask you to submit to a blood test or provide a urine sample. A refusal to take a blood test or provide a urine sample will have the same effect as refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. If the sample is over the legal limit you will be facing a 6 month Statutory Summary Suspension and a refusal will lead to a 1 year suspension of your license.

There’s a difference between the Portable Breath Test (PBT) that the officer will request you perform at the scene, and the Breathalyzer Test which is performed at the police station. The PBT is a small device that the officer has at the scene which will display your blood alcohol level immediately on the device. The results of the PBT are not admissible in Court to prove that your blood alcohol level was over the legal limit. The reason for this is that the PBT is not sufficiently scientifically reliable to be admissible in Court. However, it can be used by the State to show that the officer had Probable Cause to place you under arrest and take you to the station for further investigation. A refusal to submit to a PBT will not lead to a suspension of your license. If the blow into the PBT indicates that your blood alcohol content is over the legal limit, your license will not be suspended. The Statutory Summary Suspension only applies to the Breathalyzer test that is performed at the police station.

If you decide to submit to a Breathalyzer Test at the Police Station, the officer will observe you for at least 20 minutes to make sure that you do not put anything in your mouth and will then demonstrate how you should blow into the machine. Illinois law holds you responsible for providing a successful breath sample. An unsuccessful blow will be considered a refusal subjecting you to a mandatory 12 month suspension of your license and your driving privileges in Illinois. A successful blow into the Breathalyzer machine will cause the machine to generate a strip of paper that will show what you blood alcohol level was. While there are no guarantees, a successful Breathalyzer result will make it much more likely that the state will be able to prove the DUI in Court, while a refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test will make it much more difficult for the state to prove their case in Court. The State can still prove the DUI in Court if the Judge or Jury is convinced that you were Driving Under the Influence based on the officer’s observations, the way you were driving, your admission to drinking, and the results of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. If you believe that you will fail a Breathalyzer Test, you should refuse to perform the Field Sobriety Tests, refuse to answer the officer’s questions, and refuse to blow into the PBT. Your license cannot be suspended for refusing any of these things but since you will refuse to take a Breathalyzer Test, your license will be suspended for 12 months no matter what. Without a Breathalyzer test, no PBT, no admission to drinking, and no Field Sobriety Tests, it will be virtually impossible for the State to prove a DUI in Court.

James Dimeas is a nationally-recognized, award-winning, DUI lawyer, with over 30-years of experience handling DUI cases throughout Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County. Recently, James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer in the State of Illinois for the years 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021” by the American Society of Legal Advocates. James Dimeas was named a “Best DUI Attorney”, a “Best DUI Lawyer in Schaumburg”, and a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago” by Expertise. James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer” by the National Trial Lawyers. The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Attorney Award for the State of Illinois”. James Dimeas is rated ‘Superb’ by AVVO, 10 out of 10, the highest rating possible for any DUI lawyer in the United States. The American Society of Criminal Law Attorneys named James Dimeas a ’10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction.” Attorney and Practice Magazine gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney Award for Illinois.”

If you are facing DUI charges, You can contact award-winning DUI Lawyer, James Dimeas, for a free and confidential consultation. You can speak to James Dimeas personally by calling him at 847-807-7405.

Additional Blogs:

Can I Be Arrested For Refusing A Breathalyzer Test?, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 4, 2021.

What Happens in a Typical DUI Arrest?, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, January 19, 2021.