Driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime in every state in the country. However, how each state defines and enforces its DUI laws can sometimes differ widely. The Commonwealth of Virginia affords certain powers to law enforcement officers who initiate a DUI arrest. Knowing how and when police officers may issue a breathalyzer test and how the state may use those results will help you understand your rights as a driver in Virginia.
According to state law, anyone who drives an automobile on a public road in Virginia gives their implied consent to allow law enforcement officers to take samples of their breath and/or blood if they are arrested for suspected DUI or driving without a valid license. As such, drivers in Virginia who have been arrested under these charges must comply with a law enforcement officer’s request to take a breathalyzer or blood test.
However, understanding the differences between a preliminary breath test, a breathalyzer test, and a blood test can clarify your rights and obligations in various situations.
Types of DUI Tests in Virginia
The three most common types of tests for which Virginia police officers can request a driver’s consent are:
- Preliminary breath tests – An officer may request that you take a roadside preliminary breath test after they have pulled you over. This request may come before or after the officer makes an arrest. While many people refer to this test as a “breathalyzer test,” a preliminary test is less accurate than a genuine breathalyzer test. As a result, officers may use roadside tests to help them determine whether a driver is intoxicated, but the results are not admissible in court. For this reason, consenting to a preliminary breath test is not legally compulsory.
- Breathalyzer tests – While a preliminary breath test occurs at the side of the road, an arrested suspect will take a breathalyzer test at the police station. Because a breathalyzer is more accurate than a roadside test, the results are admissible in court. According to Virginia’s implied consent law, a detained driver must submit to a breathalyzer test after a DUI arrest.
- Blood tests – Virginia’s implied consent law also requires a detained driver to submit to taking a blood test after a DUI test, if requested. These tests can be even more accurate than a breathalyzer test. The results of a blood test are also admissible in court.
Penalties for Refusal of Consent
If you have been arrested for a suspected DUI offense and you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test, you may be subject to a criminal charge. Your first refusal may lead to a yearlong suspension of your license. Further offenses can lead to a three-year license suspension, a fine of up to $2,500, and up to one year in jail.
How Our Attorneys Can Help
Although implied consent allows an officer to require you to take a breathalyzer or blood test after arresting you, they may only do so if they first had probable cause to initiate the arrest. Without probable cause to believe that you were under the influence, the arrest is illegal. Any evidence obtained from a breathalyzer or blood test after an illegal arrest is not admissible in court.
Our attorneys will investigate the facts and circumstances of your arrest. If we find that the officer lacked probable cause, we can file a motion to suppress the results of your breathalyzer or blood test.
Contact a Richmond DUI Attorney Today
If you have been arrested on suspicion of a DUI offense, you need aggressive representation and a strong defense. Otherwise, you risk grave consequences for your career, your reputation, and your ability to drive. The attorneys at Bain Sheldon have the experience and knowledge necessary to construct a legal case to protect your rights and liberties. Call us today at 804-282-8625 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.