If you have ever been pulled over by police for any reason, you probably know just how stressful and scary the situation can be. Especially if you are pulled over after consuming alcohol, it can be hard to know what to do to protect yourself from potential criminal charges. One thing that people are often uncertain about is what their rights are with regard to alcohol testing.
Michigan’s Implied Consent law means that everyone who is licensed to drive in the state gives their implied consent to undergo sobriety testing if they are stopped on reasonable suspicion of impaired driving. However, that does not mean you don’t have a choice – only that there are consequences for refusing. It is up to you to decide whether refusal is worth the consequences.
Field sobriety testing
Even if you have never been pulled over for drunk driving, you are probably familiar with the idea of field sobriety testing from television and movies. Field sobriety testing happens when police ask drivers to perform certain tasks such as reciting the alphabet, standing on one foot or walking in a straight line. The purpose of field sobriety testing is to help police gather evidence to provide probable cause for an arrest if the driver appears to be under the influence.
In Michigan, refusing to undergo field sobriety testing is a civil infraction, not a criminal one. Although you may have to pay a fine, it will not affect your driver’s license or result in criminal charges. Refusing the test does not give the officers probable cause to arrest you.
Preliminary (roadside) breath testing
Another way police gather evidence during a traffic stop is by asking you to take a preliminary breath test, or PBT. In casual conversation, this is often referred to as a Breathalyzer. Like field sobriety testing, a roadside breath test provides an opportunity for police to gather evidence to support an arrest.
Just like field sobriety testing, refusing to take a roadside breath test is a civil infraction under Michigan law. It carries a monetary fine, but it does not result in points against driving record or expose you to criminal liability – and it does not count as probable cause for an arrest.
DataMaster (police station) breath test
If you are placed under arrest for suspected impaired driving, you may be asked to undergo a breath test known as DataMaster once you arrive at the police station. Compared to refusing a roadside test, the consequences of refusing a breath test at the police station can be much higher.
If you refuse to take a breath test at the police station, your driver’s license will be suspended for up to two years and it will result in six points against your driver’s license. It could also result in enhanced penalties if you are ultimately convicted of drunk driving. In addition, if you refuse the breath test at the police station, the police may obtain a warrant that would require you to provide a blood sample for alcohol testing.
Get help protecting your legal rights
No matter what course of action you choose when stopped on suspicion of DUI in Michigan, one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself in the long term is to get help from a DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. Remember that it is your legal right to refuse questioning beyond providing basic identifying information, and politely but firmly insist on speaking with your attorney.