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How is 'refusing' a breath test defined in South Carolina?

The idea of what it means to refuse to take a breath test seems pretty clear cut. During a roadside stop, a person could either comply with the police officer's request or indicate that he or she doesn't want to take the test. Those seem like the two discrete options, right?

Interestingly enough, the Court of Appeals of South Carolina addressed this question in a decision handed down March 2013. At the heart of the case was a disagreement about how law enforcement officers defined a woman's refusal to submit to a breath test.

According to the case file, the woman was pulled over by police on suspicion of driving under the influence. When asked to take a breath test, the woman agreed to do so. As the woman took the test, the machine produced a tone indicating air movement; however, it still didn't recognize that a breath sample was taken. Given this result, the officer determined that she refused to take the test.

Of course, this determination sounds suspicious, since the woman agreed to take the test and presumably blew into the device. The problem was that the breath-test device didn't produce a reading. In other words, the problem appears to be with the hardware, and not the woman's willingness to comply with the law.

Interestingly enough, this case was heard on an appeal -- meaning that a court initially concurred with the arresting officer. However, the appeals court found that there was no evidence to suggest that the woman refused to take a breath test.

South Carolina's implied consent law cannot be twisted to meet a law enforcement officer's expectation of a breath test result. The specific results produced by the breath test machine aren't at the heart of the matter. Rather, it's the actions taken by the individual who is pulled over on suspicion of DUI.

Above all else, dealing with implied consent violations can be complex, which is why this blog post shouldn’t be taken as legal advice. An experienced attorney could help answer questions in regard to this issue.

Source: South Carolina Judicial Department, Chisolm v. South Carolina Dept. of Motor Vehicles, accessed April 30, 2014West Law, Chisolm v. South Carolina Dept. of Motor Vehicles, 402 S.C. 593

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