What Are the Penalties for Refusing the Breathalyzer in Massachusetts?

Driving under the influence (DUI) in Massachusetts carries severe penalties for those convicted. One of the key aspects of DUI enforcement is the administration of breathalyzer tests, which measure a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). While many are familiar with the consequences of failing a breathalyzer, fewer people understand the ramifications of refusing one.

Massachusetts operates under an “implied consent” law. When you obtain a driver’s license in the state, you automatically consent to submit to chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine) if a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence. This law aims to deter drunk driving and ensure public safety. Despite the law, studies show that refusal rates have been increasing, partly due to heightened awareness of the consequences of high BAC readings. In fact, of the more than 7,500 DUI arrests in 2019, approximately 15% involved breathalyzer refusals.

Penalties for Refusing a Breathalyzer

Refusing a breathalyzer test in Massachusetts triggers an automatic administrative penalty, independent of any criminal DUI charges. These penalties vary depending on your driving history and prior offenses.

First Offense:

  • License Suspension — 180 days
  • Additional Consequences — Potential impact on DUI case

Second Offense:

  • License Suspension — 3 years
  • Additional Consequences — Increased penalties if convicted of DUI

Third Offense:

  • License Suspension — 5 years
  • Additional Consequences — Further legal and financial repercussions

For drivers under the age of 21, the penalties are even more stringent, reflecting the zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. Refusal can lead to a three-year suspension for a first offense, with subsequent refusals incurring harsher penalties.

Legal and Practical Implications

Refusing a breathalyzer test does not mean you escape DUI charges. In fact, refusal can be used as evidence against you in court. Prosecutors may argue that refusal indicates consciousness of guilt. Additionally, refusing the test complicates your legal defense, as you forego potential evidence that might have shown a lower BAC.

Hardship License

It should be noted that Massachusetts law provides an option for a “hardship license” or a limited-use license, allowing individuals with suspended licenses to drive under specific conditions, such as for work or medical appointments. However, eligibility for a hardship license requires meeting certain criteria, including completion of an alcohol education program and a waiting period.

Consequences Beyond License Suspension

The implications of refusing a breathalyzer extend beyond losing your license. They may include:

  • Higher Insurance Premiums — Refusal can lead to increased auto insurance rates, as insurers view refusal similarly to a DUI conviction.
  • Financial Penalties — You may face fines and fees associated with license reinstatement and legal defense.
  • Criminal Record — A refusal, coupled with a DUI charge, can result in a lasting criminal record, affecting employment opportunities and more.

Defending Against Refusal Penalties

Challenging breathalyzer refusal penalties in Massachusetts requires a nuanced legal approach. An experienced DUI defense attorney can investigate the circumstances of the stop, assess the legality of the request for a breathalyzer, and explore potential violations of your rights. Possible defenses include:

  • Lack of reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop
  • Improper administration of the breathalyzer request
  • Violation of procedural protocols by law enforcement

Due to the complexities of DUI laws and breathalyzer refusal penalties in Massachusetts, a comprehensive understanding of state laws and legal strategies is required for a favorable outcome. If you or a loved one faces breathalyzer refusal charges, it is essential to seek professional legal assistance immediately.

Contact Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorneys at Altman & Altman, LLP

At Altman & Altman, LLP, we have extensive experience defending clients against DUI charges and breathalyzer refusal penalties. Our team of skilled DUI defense attorneys is dedicated to protecting your rights and achieving the best possible outcome for your case. We have an impressive track record of getting clients’ charges reduced, or even dismissed altogether. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact us today.



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