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Is it ever a good idea to refuse a breath test?

Given what is known about the unreliability of handheld breath devices like the Datamaster, it is easy to understand why some people mistakenly believe that refusing to take a breath test will come with fewer penalties than taking one and failing. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Iowa, like every other state in the union, has an implied consent law on the books for licensed drivers. This law makes it dangerous for anyone to refuse a police officer's request to test for alcohol.

Iowa's implied consent law

All implied consent laws have a few things in common. They all provide a comprehensive list of the testing methods officers can choose from, and they all have penalties for refusing, that usually involve suspending the license. After that, the laws diverge, and in Iowa, drivers need to know the following:

  • Refusing a preliminary breath test will likely trigger the officer requesting an authorized test under the implied consent law.
  • The officer is allowed to choose whether blood, urine, or breath will be tested.
  • The testing needs to be requested within two hours of the original preliminary screening or refusal.
  • Drivers do have the right to refuse a blood test, but not to refuse urine or breath testing.
  • Refusal will result in a driver's license revocation for one year. Subsequent refusals will result in a revocation for two years.

What this means

Refusing the preliminary breath screen puts drivers in the situation where they are likely to be arrested and taken to the station for a test that they cannot legally refuse, and if they do so, then the suspension of driving privileges is designed to be quite heavy. In fact, like other states with these laws on the books, Iowa has designed the system so that those who refuse to participate in the screening test are likely to spend more time with a revoked or suspended license than those who take the test and face a conviction. This happens because while the penalties for refusal are automatic, there is a great deal of discretion offered to judges sentencing OWI offenses, and an experienced lawyer can help defendants negotiate their sentences.

If you are arrested

Without legal advice, DUI defendants often find themselves with little choice and few resources. The fact is, though, that even with a breath test result that goes against you, there are viable OWI defense tactics to help you show that you were falsely accused - without having to face the consequences that come from a refusal to test. One of the best things you can do for yourself in this situation is to call an attorney.

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