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If I'm Pulled Over For DUI, Should I Take The Breath Test?

This is one of the most common questions people have after being pulled over for a DUI. For many, the answer is no. Unless you have only had one drink and are truly below the 0.08 limit, taking the breath test will never end in your favor.

When police pull you over for suspected drunk driving - or some other traffic offense - they may suspect you've been drinking but they don't have the evidence needed to arrest you. Taking a breath test gives them that evidence. And it gives the prosecutor evidence the data he or she needs to secure a guilty verdict.

By refusing to take the breath test, you deny them this evidence. Yes, you may still be arrested and charged with a DUI, but the only evidence of your intoxication will be testimony from the police officer who arrested you. He or she will testify that you were slurring your words, stumbling, smelled of alcohol or had red eyes, but it will be anecdotal. There will be no evidence showing the amount of alcohol in your blood.

Aren't There Penalties For Refusing To Blow?

Yes, there are. And they can be harsh - but not as harsh as a DUI conviction. In Maryland, the penalties for refusal to take a breath test are as follows:

  • First offense: 120 day driver's license suspension
  • Second offense: one year driver's license suspension

It's important to note: if you take the test and fail you will still lose your license.

Depending on whether this is your first offense and the amount of alcohol in your system you will lose your license for anywhere from 45 to 180 days and you will have given the prosecution the evidence it needs to convict you of a DUI.

Now compare those penalties to a DUI conviction:

  • First offense: Up to one year in jail; up to $1,000 in fines; a minimum six-month driver's license suspension; the installation of an interlock ignition device as a condition of license reinstatement
  • Second offense: Up to two years in jail; up to $2,000 in fines; a minimum one-year driver's license suspension; the installation of an interlock ignition device as a condition of license reinstatement

You will also be left with a permanent criminal record, which can make it hard to get a job or housing, obtain security clearance at government jobs or gain entry into graduate school.

If you find yourself pulled over this holiday season, weigh your options. If you really have had only one drink, then take the breath test. If you've had more, think about the possible consequences before deciding to blow.

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