If a Mount Pleasant police officer pulls you over and suspects you are driving under the influence, they will almost certainly ask you to blow into a handheld breath test device commonly known as a breathalyzer. As you know, the device tests your breath to determine the level of alcohol in your blood. A blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher can be probable cause to arrest you for DUI under South Carolina law.
Given all that, it might seem like agreeing to take the test is a bad idea if you aren’t sure you’ll pass. Technically, you don’t have to take a breath test if a police officer tells you to. But state law puts potentially severe penalties on you for refusing.
Driver’s license suspension
Declining a roadside breath test automatically triggers a suspension of your driver’s license. The length of the suspension depends on if you have any prior DUI convictions but lasts at least six months. If your prior record is clean, you can apply for a restricted license, but you would also have to pay to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle and use it whenever you want to drive.
Evidence against you
State law lets the prosecutor use the fact that you declined the breath test as evidence against you at trial. This does not prove that you were intoxicated but might suggest you were trying to hide being intoxicated from the police.
You will have to undergo the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program. This program evaluates you for possible alcohol or drug addiction and recommends treatment if needed.
However, it is not a crime to decline the breath test. You can’t be convicted or sentenced to anything for doing this. It can be hard in the moment to weigh the pluses and minuses of whether to submit to the test. Whatever happens, do your best not to admit to anything and invoke your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Then you can work with your defense attorney on your legal strategy.