In 2014, more than one million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. And though the penalties for DWI (driving while intoxicated) may differ by state, they’re usually quite severe. In many instances, those who drive while intoxicated face penalties like license suspension, fines, fees, and even jail time.
One question many people ask when facing a DWI arrest is, “should I take a breathalyzer test?” Knowing which scenarios you should take a breathalyzer test is incredibly important. Failing to take it or taking it at the wrong can have severe, long-lasting consequences.
Continue reading if you’d like to know more about DWI arrests and when and where you should take a breathalyzer test.
What You Need to Know About Driving While Intoxicated
The Legal Limit for a DWI is .08
In every state, it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. There’s no exact way to determine how many drinks equates to a given BAC level, as BAC can vary based on several factors like:
- Alcohol tolerance
- Body type
If you’re not sure what your BAC level is, there are a few ways to calculate it:
Take a second to reflect on how you’re feeling or acting. If your speech has started to slur or if you experience dizziness or dramatic mood swings, odds are you have hit or passed a level of .08 or higher.
In situations like these, don’t get in your car and drive. Paying to take a car service home is much better than facing a DWI arrest.
One Drink an Hour Rule
In general, it takes roughly an hour for your body to metabolize a drink. Try your best to limit yourself to one drink an hour, and keep in mind that wine, beer, and hard liquor all have varying alcohol concentrations. For example, a 12-ounce beer and a 5-ounce glass of wine have the same amount of alcohol.
Online BAC Calculator
Free and easy to use, BAC calculators help you guess at your BAC level based on your gender, weight, and the number of drinks consumed. Keep in mind though, this is only an estimate! Calculators like this don’t take metabolism, health, or strength of your drinks into account.
Many states, including Lousiana, have an “implied consent” law, which says by driving a vehicle you automatically agree to submit to a chemical test to determine your BAC level if asked to do so by a police officer.
When a police officer suspects you may be driving while intoxicated, they’ll conduct a field sobriety test and may ask you to take a chemical test.
Here are a few tests the officer may have you do:
- Walk in a straight line, heel to toe
- Recite the alphabet backward
In most cases, if an officer suspects you are driving while intoxicated, you are required to take a chemical test to determine your BAC. This is because of the implied consent law, which says that just by driving on the road you are agreeing to take this test.
There are Consequences for Refusing a Breathalyzer Test
If a driver refuses to take a test when an officer believes them to be driving under the influence, they risk automatic license suspension along with other possible penalties. In some states like New York, the punishment for refusing a breathalyzer is just as harsh as driving drunk.
It’s important to know that penalties for people who refuse to take a chemical test differ by state.
For example, in Louisiana, there is a 6-month license suspension for 1st offense.
Just because you refuse a breathalyzer doesn’t mean you’ll avoid charges. An officer can testify in court that they smelled an alcoholic beverage in your vehicle or say you failed field sobriety tests.
When Should You Take A Breathalyzer Test?
As mentioned above, often times the consequence of refusing a breathalyzer is just as harsh as failing a sobriety test. Refusing a breathalyzer test results in an automatic license suspension, so you should take the test if you know or don’t think you’re intoxicated.
Refusing a breathalyzer test prevents you from going to trial or a hearing in front of a judge to decide if the suspension should occur.
When Shouldn’t You Take A Breathalyzer Test?
Sometimes automatically losing your license is better than losing a criminal case in court and facing jail time. If you know you’re most likely going to blow higher than a .08 BAC, it may be best to refuse a breathalyzer, especially if you have prior DUI or if the penalty would be worse than the refusal one.
It’s important to know that Lousiana has a drunk driving provision called “aggravated DWI”. This provision means that if you drive with a BAC level of 1.5 or higher or if this is your third or fourth DWI, that you will face harsher penalties than refusing a breathalyzer. This law also applies if you have caused a fatal or injurious accident.
How Does a Breathalyzer Affect Your DWI Arrest?
If you fail a field sobriety test or fail or refuse a breathalyzer, you’ll experience a DWI arrest and be taken into police custody. You’ll either post bail, obtain a bail bond, or be released on the promise that you’ll return to court for your trial.
What Else Will Happen After My DWI Arrest?
Here’s what to expect after being arrested:
You’ll Have to Appear In Court
You’ll receive a summons to appear in court. Once there, the opposition will present evidence against you, and you’ll have to plead innocent or guilty.
Your License Will be Suspended
Remember: If you refuse the breathalyzer, your license will automatically be suspended.
You’ll Pay Fines
The cost of fines depends on the state, your charge, and whether or not there was property damage or injury.
You May Go To Jail
Some states sentence first-offenders to jail time and most require repeat offenders to go to jail for a varying amount of time.
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI in Lousiana, it’s best to connect with a lawyer who can help you come up with the best defense possible. In general, it’s best to stay within the legal limits of alcohol consumption, as the consequences far outweigh the benefits.