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What Are the Risks When Refusing a Breath Test in Illinois?As the state of Illinois continues to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown, more and more people are starting to venture to the state’s bars and restaurants once again. This means that patrons again have access to establishments that sell alcoholic beverages. If you decide to go out and enjoy a few drinks with a small group of friends, you should know that police departments around the region are on the lookout for drunk drivers. As a result, you could be stopped and asked to take a breath test to make sure that your blood-alcohol content (BAC) is under the legal limit. Regardless of how much you have had to drink, refusing a breath test under certain circumstances could lead to serious consequences.

Illinois’ Implied Consent Laws

When you drive on the public streets and highways of Illinois, state law presumes that you have given your “implied consent” to submit to BAC testing. In the course of a traffic stop, the officer may request a preliminary breath test as part of his or her efforts to determine if there is probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence (DUI). If the officer establishes probable cause and arrests you, you will be asked to submit to an evidentiary BAC test.

There is an important distinction between the two types of testing. Preliminary BAC testing is not generally admissible as evidence in court, and you can refuse a preliminary BAC test with no formal consequences. Of course, your refusal is likely to make the officer look a bit harder for other indications that you are intoxicated. Once you are arrested, however, things change dramatically. If you refuse an evidentiary BAC test subsequent to an arrest on suspicion of DUI, you will almost certainly lose your driver’s license.

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What Can Skew the Results of Blood and Breath DUI Tests?Though not the only form of evidence in a case of driving under the influence, the results from a chemical sobriety test can strongly support the claim that you were legally intoxicated at the time of your arrest. Unlike observations of your behavior, courts view the blood or breath test results as objective evidence because they measure your blood alcohol concentration and detect illegal substances in your body that may have impaired you. However, testing above the BAC limit does not always mean that you were intoxicated. Your DUI defense attorney will look into possible reasons why the test results may be inaccurate.

Breath Tests

During a traffic stop, a police officer who suspects that you are intoxicated may ask you to provide a breath sample using a portable device, such as a Breathalyzer. Breath tests are quicker and easier than blood tests but are also more prone to error:

  • Residue from substances such a mouthwash and breath fresheners may have trace amounts of alcohol in them that skew the test results.
  • The presence of nearby chemicals such as paint or adhesives can cause false results.
  • The test uses hardware that must be regularly calibrated to ensure accuracy and software that may be vulnerable to glitches.
  • The officer should conduct the breath test multiple to see that the results are consistent.

Blood Test

A police officer is more likely to take a blood sample at the police station or a hospital if you are being treated for injuries. While a blood test is considered the more accurate chemical sobriety test, there is still a possibility of inaccuracies:

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Posted on in Criminal Law

DUI conviction, breath tests, McHenry County DUI attorney Breath testing devices play a critical role in DUI convictions and enforcement for the modern police officer. Small hand-held devices can provide indications of intoxication, and larger, more sophisticated ones can provide BAC levels that prosecutors can use as evidence in court.

Yet for all the people who worry about being forced to take a breath test during a traffic stop, most people do not understand how the devices work. Even more importantly, few people realize how inaccurate they can actually be, and what sorts of factors can throw off a breath test.

The Different Types of Breath Tests

There are three major types of breath tests, which operate on similar principles. Each measures the alcohol content in a person's lungs, which is itself a function of the amount of alcohol in a person's blood. However, they all measure differently.

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