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Breath test refusal in Kentucky: What are the possible consequences?

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2016 | DUI

America was founded on ideals of personal freedom. The whole idea of punishing someone for refusing to take a test is a stretch for us.

But what if the test is for the presence of substances that can impair driving?

In this post, we will consider the question of possible consequences for refusing a blood, breath or urine test under Kentucky’s implied consent law.

Missouri v. McNeely

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court faced the question of whether police are required to get a warrant before subjecting someone suspected of impaired driving to a chemical test, after the person has refused to take one. The case was called Missouri v. McNeely.

The Court ruled that police are generally required to seek a warrant. To be sure, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement, such as emergency circumstances. But the dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream over time does not constitute such circumstances.

Current Supreme Court cases

This term, the Court is expected to rule in three cases that raise issues in the wake of the McNeely decision. Two of the cases are from North Dakota and one from Minnesota.

A key issue in the three cases is whether it is constitutional for a state to criminalize the refusal to take a chemical test for suspected drunk driving.

There are thirteen states that have such laws.

One of the North Dakota cases concerns a blood test refusal and the other breath test. But both pose the question of whether it is valid to make test refusal punishable with the same consequences as drunk driving itself.

In the Minnesota case, someone refused to take field sobriety tests and was forcibly taken to a hospital for a blood test. That person is challenging the two-year suspension of his driver’s license that was imposed for declining to take the sobriety tests.

Kentucky’s implied consent law

Kentucky’s implied consent law states that if you operate a vehicle in the state, you are deemed to have given consent to one or more chemical tests (blood, breath or urine). The test or tests are to determine whether you are under the influence of alcohol or another substance that impairs your driving.

What if you refuse to take a test?

Kentucky imposes driver’s license suspensions for test refusal. For a first-offense refusal (within a five-year period), the suspension period is 30 to 120 days. But that rises to 12 to 18 months for a second-offense refusal during a five-year time period, and it is even longer for subsequent refusals.

Protecting your rights

It remains to be seen what the U.S. Supreme Court will decide in its current crop of drunk-driving cases. But the ruling could conceivably have implications for implied consent laws in Kentucky and other states.

Regardless of how the Court rules, however, it is important for you to get the skilled legal counsel you need. When facing a DUI charge, protecting your rights and minimizing consequences is best done with an experienced defense attorney on your side.