California DUI Chemical Test Refusal Could Mean More Trouble
California, like many other states, has harsher penalties even for a first-time misdemeanor DUI under certain circumstances. This article explores the common misconception that it might be better if you simply refuse to take a chemical test if you are arrested for DUI.
Driving in California is considered a privilege, not a right. Along with that privilege, each person grants implied consent to law enforcement if they suspect a driver to be driving under the influence. That means each person is required to provide a chemical test (breath or blood test) if the driver is arrested for DUI. Failure to provide a chemical test will result in the reading of the implied consent law by the arresting officer, and continued failure to provide a chemical test can result in stiff penalties under California’s refusal laws.
More Jail Time
Under California Vehicle Code §23577, on a first offense, in addition to the minimum sentence, a driver is sentenced to an additional two days in custody. On a second offense, in addition to the minimum sentence, a driver is sentenced to an additional four days in custody. On a third offense, in addition to the minimum sentence, a driver is sentenced to an additional ten days in custody. As you can see, there are additional jail penalties if convicted of a DUI and the fact that you refused were to be found true.
Harsher Licensing Consequences
But the reality is, the jail time is the least concern for a refusal. The punishment for the licensing is considerably harsher. For a first time offender, a refusal will garner a driver a one-year “hard” suspension. A “hard” suspension means there is no ability to obtain a restricted driver’s license, which allows the driver to go to and from work. Compare a first-time offender DUI with a chemical test against a first-time offender with a refusal: If convicted of a DUI based on a chemical test, the driver’s license will be suspended for six months, but the driver can obtain a restricted driver’s license after a thirty day hard suspension. Essentially, the first time DUI offender with a chemical test will have a one month suspension. A first time DUI offender with a refusal is a one year suspension with no ability to obtain a restricted license. In addition, the first offender DUI program is three months, whereas the first offender DUI program for a refusal is the extended program, which is nine months.
For second time offenders, the licensing difference between refusal and a chemical test is even more disparate. A second time DUI offender with a chemical test after conviction faces a two year suspension. However, those who took a chemical test are able to obtain a restricted license after ninety (90) days, if they, among other things, install an ignition interlock device. A second time DUI offender with a refusal will get the same two year suspension, but there is no ability to obtain a restricted driver’s license ever.
Bottom line: Do not refuse to take a chemical test if arrested for DUI in California.