What Happens if You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Wisconsin?
When the police pull you over and ask if you’ve been drinking, you need to make a lot of very important decisions in a very short period of time. One of these decisions is whether to take the breathalyzer test.
Wisconsin, like all other states, has an “implied consent” law. Under this law, you give your consent for the police to take a breath, blood, or urine sample when you get pulled over on suspicion of DUI. Typically, the police ask suspects to take a breath test, as this test can be performed quickly on the side of the road using a breathalyzer device.
Criminal Penalties for Violating Wisconsin’s Implied Consent Law
Just like any other law, you can break Wisconsin’s implied consent law. In other words, you can refuse to take a breathalyzer test during a DUI stop. However, just as there are consequences when you break any other law, there are consequences for breaking Wisconsin’s implied consent law as well.
These consequences can be substantial.
For a first-time offense, violating Wisconsin’s implied consent law carries the following penalties: (i) loss of your driver’s license for one year, (ii) mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for one year; and, (iii) a 30-day waiting period before you can apply for an occupational license (a limited driver’s license that allows you to drive back and forth to your job). If you have a child under the age of 16 in your vehicle, these penalties double.
If you have a prior conviction on your record, you will face enhanced penalties as a repeat offender.
Crucially, you can be convicted of an implied consent violation and face penalties for refusing a breath test even if you were not driving under the influence. If the police lawfully stopped you and requested that you take the breathalyzer in accordance with Wisconsin’s implied consent law, you were required to comply. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t actually drunk behind the wheel.
Inference of Guilt for Refusing a Breathalyzer Test in Wisconsin
In addition to facing penalties under Wisconsin’s implied consent law, you can also face what is known as a “negative inference” in your DUI case. Basically, this means that prosecutors will be able to use your refusal of the breathalyzer test as evidence against you.
Does this mean that you stand no chance of avoiding a DUI conviction? Absolutely not. While prosecutors will assert that you refused to take a breath test because you knew you were drunk, your attorney can argue that this wasn’t actually the case. Maybe you weren’t aware of the implications of Wisconsin’s implied consent law. Or, maybe you refused the test because you didn’t want to risk a “false positive.” Or, maybe you were concerned about taking the test for other reasons. Whatever the case may be, a skilled attorney will be able to argue that the factfinder (i.e. the judge or jury) shouldn’t use your refusal against you.
How To Defend Against an Implied Consent Violation in Wisconsin
In order to protect your driver’s license and avoid installing an IID device in your vehicle (at your expense) as the result of refusing a breathalyzer test during a DUI stop, you must request a hearing within 10 days. You will want to have an attorney represent you at this hearing, as you need to present a sound defense strategy, and you need to do everything you can to avoid losing your driver’s license for a year (or longer if you are being charged as a repeat offender).
Some examples of potential defenses to implied consent violations in Wisconsin include:
- Your DUI Stop was Unlawful – The police cannot stop you for any reason. In order to conduct a traffic stop, the police must have “reasonable suspicion” that you have committed or are in the process of committing a crime. If your traffic stop was unlawful (i.e. because the police racially profiled you), this could provide a justification for your breath test refusal.
- The Officer Did Not Have Reason to Believe that You Were Driving Drunk – In order to validly request a breath test before arresting you, the arresting officer must “detect any presence of alcohol” on your person or have other “reason to believe” that you were driving drunk. If the arresting officer did not detect the presence of alcohol or have other reason to believe you were driving drunk, this may provide you with a defense.
- The Officer Failed to Provide All Required Information – Prior to administering a breath test, an officer conducting a DUI stop must read the statement required under Section 343.305(4) of the Wisconsin Statutes. If the officer fails to provide any of the information required under Section 343.305(4), this may provide you with a defense as well.
These are not the only potential defenses to a breath test refusal in Wisconsin. An experienced DUI attorney will be able to thoroughly evaluate the circumstances of your case and identify all of the defenses you have available.
What to Do if You Refused a Breath Test During a DUI Stop in Wisconsin
Given the potential for severe consequences and the requirement to request a hearing within 10 days, what should you do if you refused a breath test during a DUI stop in Wisconsin?
At this point, you need to discuss your situation with an attorney. In addition to determining what defenses you have available, an experienced attorney can request a hearing on your behalf, begin building your defense strategy immediately, and begin working on your DUI defense. Don’t forget, fighting your refusal charge is just the first part of the process. You also need to fight your DUI—as DUI convictions carry substantial penalties in Wisconsin as well.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Middleton, WI DUI Defense Attorney
Did you refuse a breath test during your DUI stop? If so, it is strongly in your best interests to speak with an attorney promptly. To schedule a free consultation with a Middleton DUI defense attorney at Mays Law Office, call 608-257-0440 or tell us how we can reach you online now.