What are Implied Consent Laws?

You’ve been pulled over for drinking and driving. You were asked to submit to a breathalyzer test. You refused. Was that the right decision? What happens now?

LifeSafer Customer With Driver LicenseImplied consent is consent which is not expressly granted by a person, but instead inferred from a person’s actions and the facts and circumstances of the situation. In some cases, a person’s silence or inaction is the consent. In the United States, for example, if a person is at risk of death or serious injury, but is unconscious or unable to respond, other people, including paramedics, may assume implied consent to provide first aid.

In the context of drinking and driving, most states have adopted the law that if you are a licensed driver, driving a vehicle, you have then given consent to submit to the approved test to find out if you’re driving under the influence of alcohol. Approved tests include a field sobriety test and/or a breathalyzer or another manner of determining blood alcohol content (BAC). Many people believe that implied consent laws violate a driver’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. However these laws have generally been held up in court because driving is considered a privilege, not an inherent constitutional right. When you signed paperwork at the time you received your driver’s license, you gave implied consent for testing if a police officer suspects you have been drinking and driving. Refusing to then take any tests means you automatically lose your license for a preset amount of months or years, depending on your state’s law. Often, this license suspension is in place, regardless of whether you are convicted of DUI at trial.

The consequences for a DUI conviction can include fines, jail time, loss of driving privileges and the installation of an ignition interlock. Often, the consequences for refusing to take a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test are more severe than if the driver had failed one of the tests. Some states will use your refusal to submit to testing as an admission of guilt and allow your refusal to be used against you at trial.

You might be wondering how you can be charged with a DUI if you refused to take the required tests. During a traffic stop the police officer will look for signs of intoxication, which can include open containers of alcohol in your vehicle, the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and a flushed face. All of these observations, in addition to your refusal to submit to testing, could be used in a DUI trial.

Contact a DUI attorney in your area for more information on the implied consent laws in your state.