All states have some sort of “implied consent” law which exist in order for a person to have the privilege to drive within the state. In California, the Implied Consent Law basically states that in order to drive in California, you implicitly agree to submit to a chemical test of your breath or blood, even if that consent is not expressly given. Therefore, if you are stopped by a law enforcement officer who asks you to submit to a chemical test of your breath or blood, you must agree to one of these tests, otherwise you will be deemed to have refused the test and your case will be subject to all the increased penalties that a “refusal” carries.
Even if you refuse a chemical test, a law enforcement officer may still subject you to a forced blood draw and obtain the evidence of your level of intoxication with your blood alcohol content (BAC). In these situations, a person is usually advised of the implied consent law, and if he or she fails to comply, the officer will call a phlebotomist or nurse to forcefully draw blood to determine the BAC. A refusal carries with it an automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license. This is a much more severe penalty than a standard first time DUI would carry. Normally, a first time DUI involves a four month driver’s license suspension, that can actually convert to a 30-day hard suspension (after proof of enrollment in a first offender class, proof of insurance, and a reinstatement fee), with the balance of three months carrying with it a restricted license that allows the driver to drive to and from work and to and from school.
The refusal also requires a longer drinking driver class. Normally, a first time DUI in California, carries with it a three or four month drinking driver class. With a refusal, however, the driver is required to take an enhanced class that is generally nine months! The refusal will also usually carry with it increased penalties in court such as potential jail time, increased fines and fees, and an added enhancement to your charge.
You may believe that it is in your best interest to refuse to submit to a chemical test so that the officer has no evidence of you driving under the influence. This, however, is not necessarily the case. Evidence of DUI may be established through other means, as well. These include field sobriety tests (FST’s), EPAS (evidentiary portable alcohol screening) or PAS (preliminary alcohol screening) tests, interview questions, impaired driving, or traffic collisions. All of these collectively, will be used as evidence to prove that you were in fact, driving under the influence at the time of your stop. While you may refuse to answer questions or submit to FST’s or EPAS/PAS tests without being charged with the additional refusal enhancement, you may not refuse to submit to the official blood or breath test in order to have the privilege to drive in California.