Breath Test Refusal

One of the most common questions we are asked is what happens when you refuse a breath test in Maryland.  Anyone who is investigated for DUI will likely be presented with the option to take two separate breath tests to measure alcohol concentration.  The first breath test takes place on the road, and is referred to as the preliminary breath test or PBT.  There is no implied requirement to submit to the PBT and the results are not admissible in court.  In fact, officers are trained to not reveal the results of the PBT to the DUI suspect.  The PBT is supposed to serve as a tool to give officers more information when deciding whether to make an impaired driving arrest.  Submitting to the PBT and testing around .08 or higher will almost certainly result in an arrest, while refusing the PBT will likely result in an arrest if the officer smells alcohol and there are signs of impairment.  Once a driver is arrested for drunk driving the PBT will likely not be mentioned again until way down the line in discovery documents, and sometimes it never will be mentioned.  The official breath test occurs at the police station where the machines are updated and serviced, and operated by a certified breath tech., and this is where things start to get serious.
Anyone with a Maryland driver’s license has agreed (knowingly or not) to submit to a breath or blood test as required by law.  In fact, if you take a look at your driver’s license there is a line on the back that states “driving in Maryland implies consent to chemical testing for intoxication as required by law.”  It goes on to state that “longer license suspensions may result from refusal to be tested.”  This is exactly what will happen if you refuse to take the breath test in Maryland, but it's not all bad news, as a refusal means less evidence for the state to ultimately use against you.  Refusing the breath test will result in an automatic 9-month license suspension, which cannot be modified to a restricted (work only) license.  A driver who refuses the test will only be able to drive if he or she installs the interlock device.  There is one exception for defendants who have to drive for a living.  These defendants can request an administrative hearing and ask the hearing officer for a work vehicle exemption.  We have had numerous clients who drive work trucks as part of their employment that we were able to successfully petition for an exception to the interlock requirement.  The suspension is the same as a person who submits to the test but blows .15 or higher, so it will only be beneficial to take the test if you believe you are under .15.  A test result of .08 to .15 will result in a six-month suspension that may be modified to a restricted license.  These suspensions are all enforced by the MVA, and have nothing to do with the case in court.  Refusing to take the breath test can have an impact on the court case outside of limiting the available evidence that will be introduced.
Under Maryland law a DUI refusal can be considered a separate offense from the actual DUI or DWI citation under Transportation Article §21-902(g) if certain circumstances occur.  First, the State’s Attorney’s Office must provide notice to the defendant or the defense attorney of its intent to an seek additional penalty for the test refusal prior to the trial.  Second the person must actually be convicted of DUI or DWI, and third the judge or jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly refused to take the test.  If all these things occur a defendant may face an additional 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.  Realistically this extra punishment would only occur for repeat offenders or under extreme circumstances, but a Maryland DUI refusal lawyer could explain in more detail.  Benjamin has handled hundreds of DUI cases and has won numerous drunk driving jury trials.  He is standing by at 410-207-2598 for a free consultation.
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