Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in South Carolina?

If a police officer stops you for suspected driving under the influence (DUI), they will likely ask you to take a breathalyzer test. Technically you can choose not to take the test, but there are consequences. In this article, our Orangeburg DUI lawyers will shed light on the implied consent law and the effects that a driver faces. In addition, if you have a pending DUI charge, our attorneys can help you prepare a defense.

How Does South Carolina’s Consent Law Work? 

Under South Carolina Code Section 56-5-2950, if you operate a motor vehicle, you have given implied consent for law enforcement officers to carry out a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs if they arrest you for suspected driving under the influence. This law is known as South Carolina’s implied consent law.

After the police officer pulls you over, they will offer you a breathalyzer test. The officer administering the test must be trained and certified by the South Carolina Justice Academy to administer the test using a Datamaster (DMT) device. If the officer arrests you before offering the test, they will need to collect the breath sample within two hours.

If you’re physically unable to have the test, the officer will request a blood sample. If there’s reasonable suspicion that you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer will request a urine sample. Only a licensed doctor, registered nurse, or trained medical personnel can collect the urine or blood sample. They need to collect the sample within three hours of the arrest.

Lastly, before administering the test, the officer must advise you of your rights and the consequences of refusing the test. The warning must be verbal and in writing, and the officer’s advice and your response must be videotaped. Failure to do any of this is a viable defense to a DUI charge. Again, your Orangeburg DUI lawyer can explain more on this.

Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

You should always cooperate with a law enforcement officer, but it doesn’t mean you have to agree to a breathalyzer test. This simply means that you can refuse to give a breath sample. While refusing, stay calm and polite, and explain to the arresting officer why you don’t want to provide the test.

You should also remain silent and not provide any information beyond your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Also, you do not have to give consent for the officer to search your car. This is because any evidence found inside the vehicle, like an open container, can and will be used against you.

Furthermore, the officer might ask you to perform other types of field sobriety tests. They include walking a straight line, standing on one leg, or reciting the alphabet. These tests can also be used as evidence against you, so you have the right to refuse to do them. Note that refusing the test does not constitute disobeying a police command or failing to cooperate with an investigation.

Is There Punishment for Refusing a Breathalyzer Test? 

The simple answer is yes. While it is within your right to say no, there is a penalty for it. As the arresting officer would inform you, failure to prove a breathalyzer test results in a six months driver’s license suspension for a first refusal. The second time, the punishment will last for nine months and 12 months for a third refusal.

The suspension above is administrative. But it will be included in any subsequent suspension you face if you are convicted by a court for the DUI. Furthermore, if you refuse a test, South Carolina law mandates that you complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Program (ADSAP).

You’ll get assessed for alcohol and/or drug dependency during the program and undergo any necessary treatment. You have to pay for the program, and it costs between $500 to $2,500 to complete. It can also go on for as long as one year, depending on your dependency level.

The only seemingly upside to submitting to a test is that the police and prosecution will not have blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test results. However, they can use other evidence, like sighting several open containers in your car, to get a conviction. They will also use your refusal to submit to a test to prove that you’re guilty of DUI.

Let the Best Orangeburg DUI Lawyers Help You!

Did you refuse a breathalyzer test and are still facing a DUI charge? Our Orangeburg DUI attorneys can help you prove your innocence or reduce your sentence. Time is always of the essence in DUI cases, so call us now for a free consultation.