Seeing flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror as you drive along an Alabama road can be quite unsettling. Especially if you’ve already had a couple speeding tickets in the past, you might immediately start to worry if a police officer pulls you over in a traffic stop. If the officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, you can assume that he or she suspects you of DUI.
A police officer must establish probable cause before arresting you for suspected DUI. There are several ways to determine probable cause, one of which is to ask you to take a preliminary alcohol screening test, which often includes a roadside breath test. It’s critical to know your rights, especially with regard to submitting to such tests. Do you have to take a breath test? Are there penalties for refusing?
Preliminary breath test versus evidential breath test
Many people do not realize that a preliminary alcohol screening conducted at a roadside during a traffic stop is different from a chemical breath test administered after a DUI arrest. If a police officer asks you to take a breath test during a traffic stop, you may refuse.
This is a preliminary screening, and there are no legal or administrative penalties for refusing. If you’re not a commercial vehicle operator (wherein specific rules apply), you do not have to comply with a request to take a roadside breath test or field sobriety test. An evidential test, on the other hand, occurs after you’ve been arrested for suspected DUI. If you refuse this test, implied consent laws apply.
As soon as a traffic stop begins, you are being closely observed
As mentioned earlier, a police officer must establish probable cause to take you into custody for suspected drunk driving. A police officer may consider something as seemingly innocent as fumbling with your driver’s license and registration because you are nervous as a sign of possible impairment.
If you have not consumed alcohol, you might think it’s best to take the requested breath test to prove that no alcohol is on your breath. However, passing a breath test doesn’t guarantee that you won’t face arrest. A police officer may determine probable cause in other ways, such as stuttered speech, awkward movements or having witnessed questionable driving maneuvers.
The only test you are required to take is the one that happens after a DUI arrest
If you refuse a chemical breath test after police take you into custody for suspected DUI in Alabama, you will incur an automatic driver’s license suspension in accordance with implied consent laws. Prior to an arrest, however, you are free to refuse to take preliminary alcohol screening tests during a traffic stop without fear of legal or administrative repercussions.
If you believe a personal rights violation occurred before, during or after your arrest, you have the right to bring the matter to the court’s attention.