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Should I Take a Breathalyzer in Chicago?

There is nothing more nerve-racking for drivers than seeing those flashing blue and red lights in your rearview mirror, especially those drivers that may have been drinking before driving, or have been swerving or driving haphazardly for any number of reasons. Being pulled over for a possible DUI can be a harrowing and terrifying experience. If it is your first time being pulled over, or being pulled over for a DUI, this can be an even scarier experience. 

DUI charges are taken extremely seriously in Illinois and come with harsh punishments such as large fines, loss of driving privileges, and even jail time for serious or second-time offenders. Thankfully there are experienced attorneys all over Chicago, such as the passionate team at Ktenas Law, who have built their careers around helping drivers fight against harsh or unfair DUI charges. Being pulled over or arrested for a DUI, no matter the circumstances, shouldn't be the end of the road for you. We all make mistakes, and one shouldn't change the course of your life. 

Pros and Cons of a Breathalyzer Test

Depending on who you talk to, taking a Breathalyzer test is a quick yes or no, but most Chicago DUI attorneys will tell you the same thing: don't take the breathalyzer test. While a breathalyzer could prove that you have not been drinking, or that you are below the legal limit, breathalyzers are often affected by user error, caused by the administering police officers, and more often than not cause problems rather than clear your name. 

A glass of beer, keys, and handcuffs on a table.

If you have no been drinking, or you are below the legal limit, and the test is administered correctly, you can find yourself driving home without having to worry about following charges, but that's not always the case and you should be aware that even if you are sober, you do take the risk of the test being administered incorrectly or coming back with a false positive, at which point you will be arrested. 

Breathalyzer tests are not 100% accurate, they normally sit somewhere around 85% accurate. This can be caused by many factors, such as administrator error as mentioned above, but can also be affected by: 

  • Diabetes-related issues that affect your breath 
  • Acid reflux
  • Gum or breath mints
  • Mouth wash containing any amount of alcohol 
  • Certain medications 
  • Other medical issues 

Learn More: How a DUI Lawyer Can Help Your Case

Is a Breathalyzer the Only Option? 

Breathalyzer tests are not the only option when it comes to testing sobriety in the field. Police Departments in Chicago, and all over Illinois, use the same three major tests for Field Sobriety Testing:

  • Walk-and-Turn test: you will be required to walk heel to toe in a straight line, turn, and walk back in the same way. 
  • One-Leg Stand test: you must stand on one leg, with the other foot in the air above 6 inches, for a period of time 
  • HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus) test: you will follow an object held by the administering police officers with your eyes 

While these tests seem simple enough and are meant to prove without reasonable doubt that you have adequate physical control of your body, they are not always a sign that the subject is intoxicated, and are not 100% accurate. Combined, the three hover around the 65-70% accuracy mark. For example, sober persons with inner ear problems or other balance issues are unable to complete the Walk-and-Turn and One-Leg Stand tests, and sober persons who are tired or have issues with their eyes or vision will be unable to pass the HGN test. 

Because these tests are based solely on the observations of your behavior by the administering Police Officers, they are easier to have thrown out in court but can still cause issues for sober individuals who fail them. 

What Happens if You Don't Take a Breathalyzer in Chicago? 

Illinois Law and the court system have no tolerance for drunk drivers, and enact penalties for those refusing to prove they are sober. This means that if you refuse a breathalyzer or field testing, you will be arrested immediately for a DUI, and you will be subjected to a license suspension of 6 months. There is an upside, however. After your booking, you will be required to submit to a chemical blood-alcohol test. Your blood will be drawn and tested for levels of alcohol. 

If you pass your chemical blood-alcohol test with a BAC of 0, it is extremely simple for your criminal defense attorney to have the charges pressed against you dropped, and your license reinstated. If you pass the chemical blood test with a blood alcohol content under the legal limit, this can also be used to have your charges dropped by the state. 

A man failing a breathalyzer after being pulled over.

While having your license suspended and being arrested can be scary, and many people want to do whatever they can to avoid it, going through a little trouble in the beginning so that you don't have to go through more trouble later is always your best bet when it comes to DUI charges. 

Learn More: Penalties For a DUI in Chicago

What Should I Do if I Have Been Pulled Over for a DUI? 

If you have been pulled over and questioned about driving under the influence there are a few simple steps you should follow. 

  1. Give the Police Officers your license, proof of insurance, and your car registration. 
  2. Invoke your right to stay silent by informing police officers you do not wish to speak and will not be answering any questions, and ask for your attorney. Other than identifying yourself there are no other questions that you are required to answer. 
  3. Invoke your right to forego field sobriety tests by informing the police officers that you do not wish to submit to the testing if they request that you submit to these tests.

Once you have completed these steps, all there is left to do is stay silent and wait for them to finish. Officers may ask you if they may search your vehicle, your answer should always be "No." It is important to remember that "No" is a complete sentence, and that you are not required to explain why you do not want offices to search your vehicle. Officers are not allowed to search your vehicle without your permission unless they have probable cause such as being able to see an open container in your car or any other illegal paraphernalia inside of your vehicle. 

When officers have finished their investigation, you will either be arrested for a DUI or released. Being arrested for or charged with a DUI is not the same thing as being convicted of a DUI, and will not stay on your criminal record if your charges are later dropped. 

Related Content: What to Do After a DUI

Get Dedicated DUI Defense Today

If you have been arrested for refusing to subsequent refusal of field sobriety testing if you were arrested for a DUI because of inaccurate testing or improperly administered breathalyzer tests, or you have been arrested for a DUI for any other reason, the experienced criminal defense and DUI attorneys at Ktenas Law are ready to help. 

With years of combined experience and unmatched dedication to the field, our firm is your best option when fighting against any kind of DUI charges. Call us today for a free initial consultation, and let us help you get your life back in the fast lane. 

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