Question: What Are The Consequences For Refusing The State Breath Test In California?
Answer: In California, refusal of a breath test, the administrative consequences are quite severe. In other words, when I say administrative, separate from courts, it has to do with DMV; it has to do directly with your license. If you’re found to be a refusal at DMV, you’re looking at a one-year license suspension. If you have a prior, you’re looking at a two-year license suspension. During that time, there is no restricted license available; there is no ability to obtain a license to go to work. It is a very severe consequence for a refusal at the administrative level. In addition to that, the fact of whether or not you are found guilty in court has no impact on the refusal aspect of the administrative proceedings. So it is a very severe punishment and dealt with primarily at the administrative level.
In the courts, on a first time DUI there is no penalty required under the law for a refusal. The court may use it as a means of enhancing the minimum penalties; however there is no mandatory penalty associated with a first time DUI and a refusal. It is used in court primarily as a mechanism for obtaining a jury instruction by the prosecution, which essentially states that you have some sort of knowledge of guilt or it can be used as an indicator that you had a guilty mind because you refused and therefore you’d have to overcome that jury instruction at a jury trial. If you have a prior DUI and have a refusal, then as you have additional prior DUIs, the consequences associated with refusal as far as minimum jail time do increase, however they’re not very substantial in light of other statutory scheme.