Skip to main content
DUI Defense

Do I have to agree to a breathalyzer test in Ohio?

By May 8, 2024May 13th, 2024No Comments

No one enjoys being pulled over by the police, especially when the questions turn to how much you’ve been drinking. Once they request you to take a breathalyzer test, the situation can become increasingly stressful.

Regardless of whether you’ve consumed alcohol or not, the idea of refusing to take the test might seem appealing. However, based on your specific circumstances, refusing a chemical sobriety test could lead to serious consequences.

Max Hiltner, an experienced criminal defense attorney in Ohio with a proven track record in defending clients against DUI charges (referred to in Ohio as OVI, or operating a vehicle under the influence), examines Ohio’s “implied consent” law and outlines when you are legally obligated to submit to a chemical sobriety test.

What Is Implied Consent in Ohio?

The Fourth Amendment entitles every American to the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Courts have generally interpreted this to mean that individuals have the right to refuse a chemical sobriety test at a traffic stop.

However, some states have enacted “implied consent” laws. These laws declare that anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car has implicitly agreed to be tested for DUI under certain circumstances.

Ohio’s implied consent law, found in Section 4511.191 of the Ohio Revised Code, states that any person operating a vehicle is automatically considered to have consented to a chemical sobriety test if arrested for an OVI (Operating a Vehicle under the Influence)

If you are under arrest, you are legally required to submit to a chemical sobriety test, and refusing can mean legal consequences. At the time of the initial arrest, the police officer must inform the suspect of the consequences of refusing chemical testing, as outlined in §4511.192. These warnings inform individuals of the potential repercussions of not agreeing to undergo chemical testing.

This consent applies to driving on highways, public roads, or private property accessible to public vehicles or if having physical control of a vehicle within the state. The law mandates testing of blood, breath, or urine to detect alcohol, drugs of abuse, controlled substances, or any combination thereof related to the offense of operating a vehicle under the influence.

When Can an Officer Request You Take a Breath Test?

After arresting you for drunk driving, law enforcement may request that you undergo a chemical test. It’s important to note that they can only legally make such a request after arresting you for OVI.

Should officers request that you take a portable breath test at the scene, you can decline. Portable breath tests are known for their potential inaccuracy and typically aren’t operated by officers with specialized training, rendering their results inadmissible as evidence.

Consequences of refusing a chemical test

To be placed under arrest for OVI (Operating a Vehicle under the Influence), an officer must have probable cause, meaning they believe it is more likely than not (51% or more) that you are driving while intoxicated.

The consequences of refusing a chemical sobriety test vary based on the timing of the refusal:

  • Before arrest: There are no legal consequences for refusing a roadside sobriety test or portable breath test.
  • After arrest: If you’re arrested for OVI and refuse to take a chemical or breath test, you could face a license suspension for up to 1 year, regardless of whether you are convicted of OVI. This suspension could extend further if you have a previous refusal or OVI conviction within the last 20 or 10 years.

It’s crucial to understand that refusing a chemical test doesn’t prevent an officer from potentially obtaining a warrant to force the test.

However, if you submit to the test and your results exceed the legal limit, your chances of being convicted for OVI increase significantly. Even if you test below the legal limit, you could still be charged with OVI. In such cases, the prosecution may argue that despite not being “over the limit per se,” you were nevertheless “impaired.”

Automatic Administrative License Suspension by the BMV

Beyond the criminal charges for the DUI and the act of refusal, the state further imposes an administrative license suspension (ALS) for refusing a chemical test. This suspension is an administrative action, distinct from the criminal proceedings.

An Ohio driver’s license suspension duration depends on your criminal traffic history, including any DUI or OVI convictions within the last 20 years. You have the option to contest an ALS in Ohio or to request limited driving privileges.

This appeal or request must be filed within 30 days following your initial court appearance for the charge. It’s important to note that you have the right to legal representation during the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) hearing, and seeking the assistance of a qualified Ohio-based DUI attorney in Hiltner Trial Lawyers can be beneficial.

Contact an Ohio DUI defense attorney

You could face serious charges when pulled over for OVI/DUI in Ohio. Whether you decide to take or refuse the breathalyzer test, securing a competent defense attorney is crucial to mitigate or eliminate any charges that could adversely affect your life.

With a defense attorney ready to answer your questions and experienced in navigating the legal system, you stand a chance to have your penalties reduced or, in some cases, even get your charges dropped entirely.

Contact Hiltner Trial Lawyers today to schedule your free consultation and discuss your case.

Skip to content