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What is a “refusal” charge and how does it affect my license?

What Is A “refusal” Charge And How Does It Affect My License?

It is intimidating to find yourself dealing with a police officer who suspects you of driving while intoxicated. But there’s a whole separate set of challenges if, after an arrest, you end up with a refusal charge, too.

Virginia is an “implied consent” state. That means if you are driving, you’re considered to have consented to submit to timely breath or blood tests after an arrest. Such tests typically would be requested after charges of driving while intoxicated or, for minors, driving after illegally drinking alcohol.

If you unreasonably refuse to comply with a test to determine blood alcohol content, you could face a refusal charge that may cost you your license for a year; a second conviction bumps that figure up to three years.

We’ll expand on that in a bit. But first:

A key detail here is that it’s unlawful to refuse testing after arrest. Field sobriety tests, typically administered before an arrest, have questionable accuracy and may be refused. Just understand that you should do so politely and that doing so could be followed by your arrest. Still, it can be beneficial to decline the field sobriety tests — the results rarely help a person’s case. Whatever happens, remember that everything you do and say likely is being recorded and, even if not, testimony about it could become evidence in court.

Returning to Virginia’s refusal laws, a first violation is a civil offense and tacks a year onto any administrative license suspension you may have received. If applied in addition to any suspended license time if you are convicted of a DUI, you’ll lose your license for two years.

An additional refusal violation or other DWI-related charge within 10 years means a Class 1 misdemeanor — which could come with up to $2,500 in fines and a year in jail — and losing your license for three years.

If it’s just your first conviction, after 30 days you could ask the court for a restricted license. With good cause, that could be granted, but it would require an ignition interlock system in any vehicle you drive, completing an alcohol safety action program, and not driving commercial vehicles.

A skilled attorney can help you defend yourself and reach the best possible outcome in these situations. That includes determining whether your arrest was lawful and the officer complied with test requirements. See our DUI blog (LINK) for valuable advice about handling an alcohol-related traffic stop.

Invictus Law lawyers offer the powerful combination of a high-caliber defense and criminal defense expertise. Please contact us online or at 757-337-2500; we offer free consultations. We are happy to provide appointments via phone or video chat to comply with social distancing recommendations.

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