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Can you refuse a breath test to avoid an Illinois DUI?

There are a number of reasons why you could feel nervous about a breath test. Maybe you believe you've had blood sugar issues, and a breath test could show a false positive. Perhaps the officer doesn't seem to understand how to use it properly, or maybe the device itself seems faulty. You are likely worried about incriminating yourself with a bad test.

Unfortunately, refusing to take a breath test during an impaired driving traffic stop is actually a crime in itself. While the police cannot force you to take a chemical test, they can charge you with a crime for refusing to take one. The end result could be criminal and civil penalties, including loss of your license. While you can refuse a breath test, you break the law when you do so, which could very well result in your arrest and temporary incarceration.

What are the penalties for refusing a chemical test?

Under Illinois state law, anyone who chooses to operate a motor vehicle on public roads has given implied consent for roadside and chemical testing. If any officer believes you may be under the influence, you are obligated to consent to a test. If you refuse, the officer can't force you to take the test. You can end up incarcerated for refusing, however.

The first time you refuse a chemical breath test, you will lose your driver's license for six months. A second offense will result in losing your license for three full years. You will have to pay fines and fees to get your license reinstated. In the meantime, you could lose your job because you can't get there on time. You could face social issues, as people avoid riding in a car when you are driving or inviting you to gatherings with alcohol. Even worse, you could still face DUI charges.

Refusing a test won't stop a DUI charge

You may think that having a refusal on your criminal record instead of a potential DUI is a good thing. In reality, refusing the chemical test won't stop the courts from charging you with a DUI. If an officer asked you to take a chemical test, you probably already performed poorly on a roadside sobriety test. The officer who administered the test could testify to your likely intoxication, based on how you performed.

More importantly, refusal to take the chemical breath test can actually strengthen the DUI case against you. Regardless of why you refused, the courts could see the refusal as an indirect admission of guilt. If you get convicted of a DUI on top of a test refusal, you could very well face the maximum penalties for each offense.

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