Is Refusing a Breathalyzer an Admission of Guilt?

Refusing a Breathalyzer
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If you ever find yourself in the position where you are pulled to the side of the road, blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror, and you know that you have had too much to drive, your mind will start racing about the different ways that you can minimize the impact that this mistake will have on your life. How should you answer if the police officer asks if you have been drinking? How can you perform well in a field sobriety test? And what will happen if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test? You may be thinking that if do not take the breathalyzer test, then the officer will have no proof of your BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration), and therefore will not be able to charge you with OUI. But what if refusing the test is treated as an admission of guilt in the state of Massachusetts?

While there is no simple answer to whether or not you should submit to a breathalyzer test during a traffic stop, you can rest easy knowing that your refusal to take the test in Massachusetts will not be counted as an admission of guilt. In fact, neither your breath test results or the fact that you refused the test will be admissible in court as evidence. That said, there are some serious consequences that you must be aware of before you decide which option is best for you.

What Happens When You Refuse a Breathalyzer in Massachusetts?

While refusing a breathalyzer in Massachusetts is not treated as an admission of guilt, it is not entirely good news. When you receive your driver’s license from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, you are agreeing to the Massachusetts implied consent law,  G.L. c. 90, § 24(1)(f)(1), which states that by having this license, you are consenting to an alcohol test if an officer requests one of you. Thus, refusing to take the test means the RMV automatically suspends your license. The length of suspension depends on a few different factors:

  • First offenders who refuse a breath test will have their licenses supended for 180 days automatically.
  • Second offenders, as well as drivers under the age of 21, who refuse a breath test will have their licenses suspended for 3 years.
  • Third offenders who refuse a breath test will have their licenses suspended for 5 years.
  • If a person has 3 or more drunk driving convictions and refuses a breath test, their license will be suspended for life, with no opportunity for a hardship license.

In certain cases, first, second, or third offenders may be eligible to apply for a hardship license which will allow them to get to and from work or medical appointments with a limited license.

Appealing an Automatic License Suspension After Refusing a Breathalyzer

If you refuse a breathalyzer and your license is automatically suspended, you will have an opportunity to appeal this suspension within 15 days. In order to make the appeal, you must appear in person at the Boston Registry of Motor Vehicles, at the Driver Control Unit. In the event that the RMV refuses your appeal, you may then take your appeal to the District Court within 30 days in order to have the decision reviewed, but you may not introduce any additional evidence.

There are limited reasons that an appeal to this type of suspension will be granted, to it is in your best interest to partner with an experienced attorney as soon as possible and begin to formulate a strategy quickly. The sooner you act, the more opportunities you will have to reduce the impact that this suspension will have on your life.

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