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Can the Missouri police make you take a breathalyzer test?

It’s Friday night, and you and your friends go out to enjoy a well-deserved happy hour after a long work week. You have a few drinks—but nothing too overboard. You decide you’re fine to drive yourself home. The officer who spots you on the road, however, has another opinion.

When you see the lights flashing in your rearview mirror, you panic. You feel mentally sharp enough to act sober—but you’re not confident you’d pass a breathalyzer test. What are your options?

Implied consent

Under Missouri law, you’re considered to have given implied consent to a breathalyzer test if you:

  • Were arrested and the officer has a reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence,
  • Are under 21 and the officer has a reasonable suspicion that you were driving with a blood alcohol concentration of at least .02 percent or
  • You were involved in a serious or fatal car accident.

Notwithstanding the implied consent stipulation, you may still refuse to take a breathalyzer test. However, there are consequences for this decision.

Refusal

If you refuse a breathalyzer test, you will lose your driver’s license for one year. In addition, if you have a record of previous alcohol-related offenses, you will also have an ignition interlock device installed in your car for six months after your license has been reinstated. These penalties apply regardless of whether you’re convicted of driving under the influence.

Can refusal help me avoid criminal charges?

You may think that refusing a breathalyzer test denies the police hard evidence to convict you. However, your avoidance of the test may work against you in court—as the prosecution could make the case that you refused the test because you knew you were intoxicated.

In addition, it’s worth noting that even if you refuse the breathalyzer, the police could still do a forcible blood test to check your blood alcohol content—if they secure a warrant first.

Being charged with a DUI doesn’t have to turn your life upside down. Getting an experienced defense attorney to advocate on your behalf is an important first step to minimizing any damage—or getting your charges dropped altogether.

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