If a police officer asks you to take a Breathalyzer test, should you comply or refuse? And if a Breathalyzer test shows you to be operating under the influence (OUI), what are your options? To best protect yourself in such circumstances, it is important to understand the relevant OUI law.
Consequences of refusal to take a Breathalyzer test
In Massachusetts, refusing to take a Breathalyzer test will result in an automatic suspension of your license. If this is your first offense and you’re over 21, the suspension is for 6 months. For your second offense, the suspension is for three years, and for the third offense, the suspension is for five years. For the fourth or any subsequent offense, the suspension is for life. These suspensions are clearly onerous. Most people cannot afford to lose their license for 6 months, let alone three or five years. Massachusetts law therefore creates a strong incentive to take the Breathalyzer test. If, however, you take a Breathalyzer test, and it shows that you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% you can be charged with an OUI. You will receive a 30-day administrative suspension of your license. If you are convicted of the OUI, you face more serious penalties, including a license suspension of up to one year.
Should I fight the results of a Breathalyzer test?
Obviously, if the Breathalyzer test shows a BAC of 0.08%, and you wish to take the matter to trial, the prosecution will have a strong case against you. However, Breathalyzers are not infallible. They are operated by human beings, who can and do make mistakes. In fact in late April 2015, several District Attorneys found mistaken Breathalyzer results, and temporarily suspended using Breathalyzer evidence in court. Ultimately, the mistakes were deemed due to “operator error,” and not due to the equipment itself. However, these incidents nonetheless demonstrate that Breathalyzers are no more reliable than the people who operate them. Operator error is therefore one potential ground on which to challenge Breathalyzer evidence.
Each case is different, however, and knowing when to fight an OUI charge, and when to settle, requires the knowledge of an experienced OUI / DUI Lawyer. If you find yourself facing an OUI conviction, contact us for skilled and experienced representation.