Driving while intoxicated is a serious crime in Colorado, with even a first drunk driving conviction in criminal court potentially resulting in jail time and high fines. For this reason, people who are pulled over after drinking may be tempted to refuse to perform a breath test. However, breath test refusal has serious consequences as well.
A Breathalyzer test is used to determine an individual’s blood alcohol level. As driving is considered a privilege, drivers implicitly consent to blood alcohol tests in exchange for the privilege to drive. Thus, if a police officer in Colorado stops a person and believes that he or she is intoxicated, and the person refuses a Breathalyzer test, the individual may have his or her driver’s license suspended for a year for the first offense; this is done through an administrative proceeding. The license will be suspended for 24 months and 36 months for the second and third offenses, respectively.
In addition, even if a person refuses a Breathalyzer test in Colorado, prosecutors in criminal court might still base potential DUI charges on other evidence gathered at the scene. Such evidence may include witness testimony, officer observations or field sobriety test results. A person’s refusal to take a breath test might also be used against him or her at trial.
Even if a person chooses to take a breath test, his or her case can still be defensible in a Colorado criminal court, which is why breath test refusal may not be the wisest move for an individual. For example, the criminal defense may challenge issues, such as if the equipment used for the test was correctly calibrated or if the police offer was truly qualified to administer the breath test. The defense might also argue that the test was not administered correctly.
Source: FindLaw, “Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?“, Accessed on Sept. 10, 2015