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DWI: The Breathalyzer

It’s like clockwork. Most times I meet a non-attorney inevitably the first question they ask is what areas of law I practice. When I state that I do handle some criminal matters, the next question is whether it’s a good idea to take or refuse a breathalyzer.

Obviously, the best defense against DWI is not drinking and driving. Admittedly, though, best case scenario isn’t always what happens. And while it’s impossible to give categorical advice what to do in certain situations, it is important to discuss the ramifications of accepting or refusing a breathalyzer test.

If you accept, then the arresting officer and State will have direct evidence of whether you committed a DWI — i.e., driving with a BAC of .08. This will generally make or break a case against you, and it could be the very piece of evidence that convicts you.

If, on the other hand, you refuse to blow, then you’ll likely be arrested and the Department of Revenue will move to suspend your driver’s license for a year. The last part is not entirely accurate, though. There are some legal devices in Missouri law that attorneys can use to prevent license suspension/revocation.

Ultimately, it’s very hard to determine whether or not to take the test. Submitting to the breathalyzer could give the State direct evidence that you are guilty of DWI. Refusing the test could raise the inference that you were drinking excessively; and, now you have to contest a year-long license suspension.

Because each case is different and unique, it’s important to contact an attorney if you are charged with DWI. There are several time sensitive deadlines (some that are just 15 days) which must be met to fully contest charges.

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