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Can You Refuse A Breath Test? Understanding Implied Consent

Imagine you are driving home one night. Suddenly, you see police lights in your rearview mirror. As you slow down and pull onto the shoulder, you begin to feel worried. Why are you being stopped?

You remember that you had a few drinks earlier in the evening. Could that cause a problem now?

As the police officer walks to your car window, you find yourself wondering whether it would be smart to refuse to take a breath test if the officer asks you to. But is it?

Iowa's Implied Consent Law

Iowa has an implied consent law. Implied consent means that anyone who operates a motor vehicle automatically consents to have their blood, urine or breath tested when a police officer reasonably believes they are operating while intoxicated.

Can you refuse a breath test?

The short answer to this question is: yes. You can refuse a breath test. However, due to to implied consent laws, refusing a test results in certain consequences.

If you refuse to allow a police officer to administer a breath test, your license will be automatically suspended. The suspension could last for up to a year.

Penalties for OWI

If you submit to a breath test by police and your blood-alcohol content is found to be over the legal limit, your license may be suspended for less time than if you had refused to take the test altogether. However, if you are charged with OWI - even if it's your first offense - you still face the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor charge on your record
  • Your license revoked for 180 days
  • At least two days in jail
  • $1,250 in fines plus a surcharge of 35 percent

Depending on just how high your blood-alcohol level was, you may also face other penalties, including having an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle. If you have prior OWIs on your record, the consequences may be even more severe.

What to do if you are charged with OWI?

If you are charged with OWI, it is important to protect yourself by speaking with a criminal defense attorney. A charge is not the same as a conviction. Breath tests are often unreliable, and an attorney may be able to help prove that. A lawyer can also help you consider other possible defenses, including whether police lawfully pulled you over and whether other tests, such as blood and urine tests, were conducted correctly.

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