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Can you refuse a breath test during a DUI stop in Illinois?

It's a nightmare scenario, especially for people who drive commercially for a living. You get pulled over by the police, who administer a field sobriety test. Basic health issues, ranging from diabetes to anxiety or even a bad knee, could result in an officer suspecting you're under the influence. In that scenario, the next step usually involves the officer performing a chemical test, such as a breath test, to determine alcohol impairment. In some scenarios, officers may collect blood, saliva or urine for testing. Some people might consider refusing to allow the officer to perform a chemical test. Doing so, however, has serious implications for your legal situation.

Illinois law requires you to submit to testing

When you operate a motor vehicle on public roads within Illinois, whether you're a resident or not, you're giving implied consent for chemical testing in certain situations. The law essentially mandates that drivers must submit to chemical testing if law enforcement have reason to suspect impairment.

While law enforcement cannot physically compel you to give a sample, it's important to realize that refusing chemical testing is a violation of the state's implied consent law. You can say no, but you will most likely end up taken into police custody. If there was an issue with your driving, such as swerving or crossing the center line that resulted in the stop, that could be enough reason to arrest you without the chemical test. You will also face consequences for violating the implied consent law.

How Illinois penalizes refusing chemical tests

If you refuse the test, the officer arresting you will warn you that doing so will result in a suspension of your license for at least a year. Generally speaking, officers need to have probable cause to request a chemical test. If the officer believes you are under the influence, you will very likely spend the night in custody and get charged with driving under the influence (DUI).

The Secretary of State will receive information about the refusal and send you notice of the suspension of your license. For first time refusals, the penalty is loss of your drivers' license for a full year. Any subsequent time you refuse will result in loss of your license for three years. That will also apply to any commercial drivers license you may hold.

Despite what you may hope, refusing the test generally won't help in court. The officer can still testify about the behavior and/or field sobriety test that resulted in your arrest. The courts may even consider your refusal of testing an acknowledgment of guilt. You could very well still end up convicted of a DUI and facing the penalties that result while also dealing with the consequences of the refusal.

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