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What happens when you refuse a chemical test during a DWI stop?

Most people have heard a few horror stories about traffic stops gone terribly wrong. Whether it's a case of assumed drunkenness when a person was actually having a severe medical event or an issue with the testing device, some people who haven't broken the law can find themselves facing charges related to driving while intoxicated (DWI).

Combine those anecdotal horror stories with the right to avoid self-incrimination, and you may find yourself wondering if you have the right to refuse chemical testing during a DWI stop or arrest. After all, submitting a blood, breath or urine sample could provide law enforcement with the evidence they need to pursue charges. It's important that you understand that while you can refuse these tests, doing so is not without potentially serious consequences.

Anyone on the road in Texas has already given implied consent

In order to keep the roads as safe as possible, Texas law makes driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher a crime. Proving that someone has an illegal amount of alcohol in his or her bloodstream isn't always simple, but chemical tests can often provide an accurate view of the situation.

The Fourth Amendment protects all citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. That includes a search of your body internally. However, most people would consider a chemical test after visibly questionable driving and a failed field sobriety test reasonable. It's important to understand that an officer cannot force you to take a test. The police can request one, and if you refuse, you will likely face arrest and suspension of your license.

In order to empower law enforcement to perform these tests, Texas has an implied consent law regarding the chemical testing of drivers. Anyone who operates a vehicle on public roads in Texas has already given implied consent to chemical testing. Refusing a chemical test is a crime separate from the alleged DWI offense.

What are the penalties for refusing a chemical test?

If this is the first time you've refused a chemical test, you will face the loss of your license for at least 180 days. If you have a previous alcohol or drug offense on your record in the last 10 years, that suspension could last as long as two years.

It's also important to understand that refusing a chemical test will not stop the state from pursuing criminal charges. A failed field sobriety test, combined with an officer's testimony about any issues while you were driving, could be enough to result in a conviction. An officer can even testify to the fact that you refused the test, which can often end up as evidence of the fact that you had reason to know you were guilty.

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