Can drivers refuse chemical testing during a traffic stop?

During a traffic stop where law enforcement officers suspect that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officers will typically try to gather evidence that supports their belief. After talking with the driver and possibly seeing signs of impairment and having them perform a field sobriety test, an officer might then request that the individual also perform a chemical breath test.

When an officer asks you to perform a chemical breath test, you know they do so because they want to prove that you committed an impaired driving crime. Do you have to perform this test? Does refusing it prevent the police from gathering evidence against you?

Implied consent laws make it a crime to refuse a test

Driving is legally a privilege and not a right. Due to its status as a privilege, it is legal for individual states to put restrictions on licensing and the registration of motor vehicles. Implied consent laws are used across the nation to compel drivers to submit to chemical testing during a traffic stop.

These laws effectively state that a driver has already given consent to chemical testing by accepting a license and driving on state roads. Both Ohio and Kentucky have implied consent laws on record. Refusing a test is likely a violation of these laws.

What happens if you refuse the test anyway?

While there may be a law that says licensed drivers have to submit to chemical testing when officers have a reasonable suspicion of impairment, officers cannot force someone to give samples of their bodily fluids.

Although officers cannot physically compel you to perform a roadside chemical breath test, they can arrest you for violating the implied consent law and for suspicion of impaired driving. In some cases, they may even be able to get a warrant from a judge to conduct more in-depth chemical testing if you refuse a breath test.

Even if no chemical test occurs, it is still possible for you to wind up charged with impaired driving as well as the violation of the implied consent law. The legal penalty will involve the suspension of your license, and your previous record, as well as the state in which you face the issue, will determine the length of the suspension you face.