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Do I Have to Take a Breathalyzer in Illinois?

If a police officer pulls you over at a traffic check on suspicion of intoxicated driving, the law enforcement officer will ask you to perform various field sobriety tests. Also, the officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer test. At this point, you aren’t under arrest and you haven’t been charged with any criminal charges. Police officers use breathalyzer tests to help them build a solid case. Often, it’s in your best interest not to consent to a field sobriety test in Illinois and to refuse to consent to the initial breathalyzer test, however, doing this could cause your arrest.

At the DUI Lawyers 24/7, our Lake County DUI criminal defense lawyers have successfully handled many drunk driving cases throughout Cook County, DuPage County, McHenry County, Kane County, Lake County, and throughout Illinois. If you have been charged with intoxicated driving, it's crucial you contact our law office immediately at 847-999-7616 so we can protect your constitutional rights while we build you the best defense possible.

Are Field Sobriety Tests Mandatory in Illinois?

Typically, law enforcement officers use field sobriety tests to get a rough idea of whether a driver is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. During drunk driving assessments, law enforcement officers administer three forms of standardized field sobriety tests. Many scientific studies show these standardized tests are reliable for assessing intoxication levels. The standardized field sobriety tests include the one-leg stand test, horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and walk-and-turn test. However, unlike with breathalyzer testing, there’s no legal penalty for refusing a field sobriety test.

Often, if a police officer has probable reason to believe that you're driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the “implied consent laws” in Illinois state the person must take a chemical test, including a breath, blood, or urine test, to establish your blood alcohol level. According to implied consent laws by just driving on Illinois roads, a driver agrees to take a chemical test to establish their blood alcohol content. These drunk driving laws vary from state to state, especially concerning which chemical test is required—but every state enforces them.

Do I Have to Take a Breathalyzer in Illinois?

A drunk driver who unlawfully refuses to consent to roadside chemical tests may face severe legal consequences—usually worse than if they were found guilty of intoxicated driving. Based on the situation, a chemical test refusal can cause administrative license suspension, potential jail time, heavy fines, and having to install a breath alcohol ignition interlock device on your vehicle. Further, if your drunk driving case goes to trial, the prosecution can use your refusal to take the test against you by arguing that you knew you were intoxicated and that’s why you didn't take the chemical test.

While you do not have to take a breathalyzer in Illinois, the Secretary of State (SOS) will automatically suspend your driving privileges for refusing chemical testing. The license suspension periods include:

  • One year, if you don't have a previous DUI conviction or statutory summary suspension within the last five years, and
  • Three years, if you have a previous conviction or a statutory summary suspension within the last five years.

The statutory summary suspension typically comes into effect on the 46th day after the date you received the notice. Usually, the arresting police officer will take possession of your driver's license at the time of the drunk driving arrest and issue a 45-day driving permit.

Learn More: What Should You do After a DUI in Illinois?

Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Illinois?

The general idea is that you're giving the police and prosecution evidence that can be used against you in a court of law if you agree to take the breathalyzer test. Your Lake County DUI attorney might have more leverage in court if the prosecution doesn't have this type of evidence. On the other hand, a breathalyzer test result below the legal limit may be more beneficial than a refusal to take the test. So, the best answer here isn't a “yes” or “no” – the right answer is “it depends.”

The police officer may try to persuade you to take a breathalyzer test based on the threat of a longer license suspension period for a breathalyzer refusal. Under the Illinois Summary Suspension law, if a driver refuses to take the breathalyzer test, there is a mandatory 1-year license suspension period imposed for first-time DUI offenders. However, if they take the test and the result is 0.08 or above, a mandatory 6-month license suspension period will be imposed.

Many DUI attorneys would suggest that the trade-off of a longer license suspension period is worth lessening the odds of a conviction of drunk driving in court. Further, there are still many ways to try to challenge the license suspension in court, and, if that isn't possible, a driving permit or hardship license is available under most circumstances to allow DUI offenders to drive during the license suspension period.

Is It Better to Take or Refuse a Breathalyzer?

Being pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a scary experience. In Illinois, a law enforcement officer needs a probable reason to believe you’re driving while drunk to pull you over. However, if you’ve been pulled over because of other driving offenses, and the police officer suspects that you’ve been drinking or are intoxicated from drug use, they'll ask you to submit to a breath test. 

Later you might need to undergo a blood test because the breathalyzer test only shows blood alcohol content, not the presence of drugs in your system. In Illinois, as in other states, you agreed when you drove your car on to chemical testing of your blood or breath at the request of law enforcement officials if you're arrested for intoxicated driving. 

Do You Have to Take a Breathalyzer in Illinois?

Again, refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test after you’ve already been arrested for intoxicated driving can result in severe penalties than an actual drunk driving conviction. Refusal to take the breathalyzer doesn't guarantee you're safe from arrest if the law enforcement officer believes you have been driving while drunk. 

An experienced McHenry County DUI defense lawyer can help you fight the results in court later, without the additional penalties hanging over your head that comes with the refusal of a breathalyzer test. It's not in your best interest to refuse a breathalyzer test if you have already been arrested.

Contact a Kane County DUI Lawyer from DUI Lawyers 24/7 for a Free Initial Consultation

Whatever the details of your DUI case, you need an experienced lawyer working with you to help ensure you get the most favorable outcome for you and your family. If you or a family member has been accused of drunk driving, you need an experienced Kane County DUI lawyer on your side. 

Our Kane County criminal defense law firm has decades of experience defending DUI offenders charged with both misdemeanors, and felonies and we can help you beat your DUI charges. Call the DUI Lawyers 24/7 today at 847-999-7616 or use our online contact form to schedule a no-cost case evaluation.

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