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Breath Test Refusal Attorneys in Chicago, Illinois

When you obtain a driver’s license in Illinois, you give implied consent to submit to chemical testing if you are suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. While you can refuse to submit to a breath test when requested by law enforcement, refusing carries additional penalties that are separate from those associated with DUI convictions.  

If you or a loved one has refused a breath test for a suspected DUI, it's important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

At Ciardelli, Cummings & Campagna LLC, we understand Illinois DUI laws and the specifics involved with breath test refusals, and we stand ready to defend our clients and uphold their rights.  

Located in Chicago, Illinois, we proudly serve clients throughout the Greater Chicagoland Area. 

What Is a Breath Test? 

A breath test is a chemical test that is conducted to measure the concentration of alcohol in an individual's bloodstream. It's a non-invasive procedure primarily utilized by law enforcement to determine if a driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.  

The most common device used for this test is the breathalyzer, which estimates blood alcohol content (BAC) from a breath sample. The two types of breath tests most commonly used in DUI enforcement are: 

  • Preliminary breath test (PBT): A portable device used during traffic stops for an initial screening. While it can give an immediate BAC result, it is generally not admissible in court in Illinois for establishing guilt. However, may be used to establish probable cause for arrest.  

  • Evidentiary breath test: Often conducted at a police station with more sophisticated equipment, this test is commonly used to provide an official BAC measurement that can be used as evidence in DUI proceedings. 

Breath tests in DUI enforcement provide a rapid, scientifically based method for law enforcement to assess a driver's impairment, which is crucial for public safety by deterring impaired driving and preventing accidents. However, breath tests are not the only method available for determining BAC or drug impairment. Alternative tests often include blood tests and urine tests. 

In certain situations, such as when a breath test is refused or when drug use is suspected alongside or instead of alcohol, these alternatives may be utilized to support DUI charges. 

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What Is a Breath Test Refusal? 

A breath test refusal occurs when a driver, suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, chooses not to comply with law enforcement's request to submit to a breathalyzer test. This decision not to provide a breath sample for BAC analysis is considered a refusal.  

It's a critical point in DUI enforcement because it invokes automatic penalties under Illinois law, due to the implied consent law that drivers agree to upon receiving their driver's licenses. This law means that by holding an Illinois driver's license, a driver has implicitly agreed to submit to chemical testing if law enforcement suspects them of DUI. 

Understanding Implied Consent

Implied consent is a legal doctrine under which drivers are considered to have given their consent to undergo chemical testing for substances like alcohol or drugs in their system when they obtain a driver’s license.  

In the context of DUI enforcement, it means that by accepting the privilege of driving, a driver agrees in advance to submit to chemical tests to determine their level of intoxication if they are suspected of driving under the influence. This agreement occurs without the need for verbal or written consent at the time of the test and is a condition of being granted a driver's license in Illinois. 

The concept of implied consent aims to facilitate law enforcement's ability to enforce DUI laws and deter driving under the influence, thereby promoting public safety. 

Penalties for Breath Test Refusal 

Refusal to comply with a breath test requested by law enforcement under the suspicion of DUI triggers penalties because it is seen as a breach of this implied consent. The implications of refusing a breath test can include immediate license suspension, fines, and potentially even stronger consequences if convicted of a DUI.  

In Illinois, the penalties for refusing to submit to a breath test are significant and can have a lasting impact on a driver's license and overall driving privileges.  

  • First-time refusal: The driver's license is automatically suspended for 12 months (one year) under the statutory summary suspension law. This is a longer suspension period than failing a breath test, which is typically 6 months for a first offense. 

  • Second or subsequent refusal: For drivers who have previously refused a breath test or failed a breath test in the past five years, their license is suspended for three years. This suspension is separate from any criminal penalties that might arise from a DUI charge. 

A driver's license suspension due to refusing a breath test is automatic and takes effect on the 46th day after the driver receives the notice of the statutory summary suspension.  

Drivers do have the right to challenge the suspension by requesting a judicial hearing, but this request must be made within 90 days of the suspension notice, and the burden of proof is on the driver to prove the suspension is unjustified. 

What if I Refuse a Breath Test and I'm Charged With a DUI? 

If a driver is subsequently convicted of DUI, they could face additional criminal penalties including fines, mandatory substance abuse evaluation and treatment, community service, and even jail time, depending on the specifics of the case and whether it's a first or subsequent offense. 

Given the stringent penalties for breath test refusal in Illinois, it's crucial for individuals facing DUI charges or accusations of refusing a breath test to seek legal counsel from an experienced DUI defense attorney who understands the intricacies of Illinois DUI laws and can provide a robust defense. 

Defenses Against Breath Test Refusal Charges 

Several defense strategies can be effectively used to combat breath test refusal in Illinois. These strategies may include: 

  • Challenging the legality of the traffic stop: Arguing that the law enforcement officer did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to initiate the traffic stop or to suspect the driver of DUI, which is a required legal standard for such encounters.  

  • Questioning the accuracy of the breathalyzer test: Challenging the functionality and calibration of the breathalyzer device, as these machines must be regularly maintained and accurately calibrated to produce reliable results. 

  • Inadequate warning of breath test refusal: Lawyers may scrutinize the process followed during the breath test request, making sure that proper protocols were adhered to and that the driver was clearly informed of the implications of refusing the test.  

  • Disputing the refusal: Miscommunication or misunderstanding surrounding the refusal can provide grounds for defense. Sometimes, individuals do not willfully refuse but are unable to complete a test due to medical conditions or other external variables. 

Ultimately, these defense strategies aim to protect the driver's rights and seek to prevent unwarranted penalties stemming from a breath test refusal charge. At Ciardelli, Cummings & Campagna LLC, we meticulously evaluate every aspect of your case to determine the best defense strategy. 

How Can Our Firm Help? 

At Ciardelli, Cummings & Campagna LLC, we do things differently. We provide comprehensive legal counsel and representation for those accused of breath test refusal, from initial administrative hearings regarding license suspension to criminal proceedings for associated DUI charges.  

Our commitment to personal counsel means that when you reach out to us about your case, we'll call you back. You'll always speak to one of our attorneys about your concerns, not an associate or paralegal. We aim to provide a robust defense through extensive preparation and exhaustive attention to detail to minimize any potential legal repercussions.

Breath Test Refusal Attorneys in Chicago, Illinois

Facing a breath test refusal charge is challenging due to Illinois' strict implied consent laws and the harsh penalties for noncompliance. At Ciardelli, Cummings & Campagna LLC, we believe in the power of a well-crafted legal strategy. We are committed to representing you by providing personalized attention and striving for outcomes that uphold your legal rights. If you are dealing with a breath test refusal, contact us today to set up a free consultation.