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Can I refuse a breathalyzer test in South Carolina?

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2023 | Criminal Defense

The last thing a South Carolina driver wants to see is the flashing lights of a police car behind them. A traffic stop can be a major inconvenience and may lead to traffic citations or even criminal charges.

Someone who has certain medical issues or who just left a social event may worry about what would happen if an officer requests a chemical breath test. Many people are aware of the likelihood of false positive test results and how failing a test would probably lead to their immediate arrest. As a result, many people who know that they are sober enough to drive may want to decline an officer’s request for a chemical test. Can someone refuse to perform a breath test during a South Carolina traffic stop?

South Carolina has an implied consent law

Drivers generally need to follow an assortment of different laws to maintain their licenses. In addition to obtaining a driver’s license and following traffic statutes, drivers must also abide by the implied consent law.

Everyone who has a license and drives on South Carolina roads accepts the potential future need for chemical testing as a condition of retaining a driver’s license. The choice to refuse a chemical test after an officer has placed a motorist under arrest is a violation of the law. The state suspends the driver’s license of anyone who violates the implied consent law. Most drivers will lose their licenses for at least six months. Some people can retain driving privileges by participating in the ignition interlock device program.

Those who want to prevent the administrative suspension of their license will need to request a hearing and possibly apply for a temporary alcohol license within 30 days of the test refusal. Although officers cannot compel someone to perform a breath test, they can report someone for refusing the test and arrest them anyway.

A violation of the implied consent law does not just carry driver’s license consequences. It can also impact driving under the influence (DUI) criminal proceedings. The police officer who was unable to administer the test can testify about someone’s refusal to conduct a test and what that likely means about their sobriety.

Becoming familiar with the different driving statutes in South Carolina can help people better respond to traffic stops and arrest scenarios alike.