What Happens if I Refuse a DUI Breath or Blood Test in California?

What Happens if I Refuse a DUI Breath or Blood Test in California?

If you ever pass through a DUI checkpoint or get pulled over by a police officer on suspicion of drunk driving, you may be curious about your rights. After all, this kind of stop can be frightening and unsettling, and how you handle the stop and subsequent arrest may have a significant bearing on the outcome of your case. For example, it’s not uncommon for a police officer to ask you to submit to a blood or breath test to determine your blood alcohol content. Is it within your rights to refuse this assessment?

In California, the answer to this question can be boiled down to a simple rule of thumb: You’re not required to take a blood or breath test during a DUI stop before you’re arrested, but you’ll face a number of consequences if you choose not to do so after you’ve been arrested. Fortunately, if you’ve been arrested for DUI and refused to take a breath or blood test, an experienced Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyer is standing by to help you. Here’s everything you need to know about declining this test in California.

Understanding California DUI Laws and “Implied Consent”

There are two types of breathalyzer tests in California –– one that’s performed before your arrest, and another that’s executed afterward. Before your arrest, an officer may try to establish probable cause by asking you to take a voluntary “preliminary alcohol screening” test (PAS), which is typically administered using a breathalyzer. Except for those currently on DUI probation or under the age of 21, you’re not required to take a pre-arrest preliminary alcohol screening test, and you won’t be penalized if you refuse to do so.

However, following your arrest, the breathalyzer test you’re given at the police station is mandatory. If you refuse, you may be subjected to additional penalties under California’s “implied consent” law. Like many states, California implements implied consent laws that require drivers in the state to submit to a blood or breath test to determine whether alcohol or drugs are in their body and their level of intoxication.

Implied consent laws are in place with the idea that driving is a privilege and not a right, and if you refuse to take the test, your driving privilege should be revoked for some time. In other words, when you obtain your California driver’s license, you consent to provide a blood or breath test if you’re ever arrested for DUI, meaning your consent is implied and given in advance.

What Are the Penalties for Refusing to Take a Blood or Breath Test after a DUI Arrest?

California law allows the driver to choose between a blood or breath test, but if neither a blood nor breath test is available, the driver must take a urine test. An arresting officer is required to explain the consequences of refusing a test and may state that you don’t have the right to speak to a lawyer before taking the test and that refusing to do so can be used against you in court.

If you refuse a blood or breath test after being arrested, you could face additional penalties such as fines, license suspension, and jail time if you are convicted. California Vehicle Code Section 13353 states that if a police officer has probable cause to arrest you and you refuse to submit to a blood or breath test, you may face an automatic one-year license suspension and may also be required to attend a nine-month DUI program whether or not your DUI charge is eventually dismissed or you’re ultimately found not guilty of DUI.

It’s important to note that these penalties are in addition to those you’ll face if you’re convicted of DUI. 

Call the DUI Defense Attorneys at The Aron Law Firm Today

Just because you’re pulled over on suspicion of DUI doesn’t mean you’ve committed a crime. Even if you refused the breathalyzer test following your arrest, there might be ways to sidestep the impact of refusal. At The Aron Law Firm, we know how frustrating a DUI arrest can be, so our goal is to make this process as easy as possible. Our team of highly trusted attorneys knows the ins and outs of California DUI defense and will be with you every step of the way.

At The Aron Law Firm, we understand and have experience defending countless clients against these types of charges and can help you get the best results possible for your situation. Give us a call at (805) 500-7745 or complete our contact form today.

William M. Aron


William M. Aron

April 5, 2024

Former Deputy District Attorney William Aron received his Juris Doctorate from the Duke School of Law and has amassed 20 years of experience practicing law. Attorney Aron dedicates his practice to defending the accused, and is devoted to keeping his clients out of prison.