Lots of folks ask me if they should agree to take a breath test if they are arrested for a DUI. That used to be a pretty easy question to answer because the penalty for refusing – a two year license suspension with NO possibility of driving during the suspension – was so very harsh. But that all changed in 2008 when the Washington Legislature created the Ignition Inter Lock License (IIL).

Ignition Interlock License (IIL)

With an IIL a person whose driver’s license is suspended, either as a result of a criminal conviction or administrative action connected with a DUI or related offense, may drive throughout the suspension with an IIL so long as the vehicle they are driving is equipped with an ignition interlock device (IID)[1], they have proof of SR-22 insurance and are otherwise eligible to drive. The creation of the IIL has been very beneficial to anyone with an alcohol related license suspension because, in today’s world, driving has become so essential. It also helps to make sure that those that do drive haven’t been drinking. But it also makes that decision on whether to take the breath test a little tougher.

Breath Test

If the driver takes the test, they risk providing the prosecution with very powerful evidence they were over 0.08 or impaired by their consumption of alcohol. On the other hand, a refusal permits the prosecutor to argue that, if they weren’t over the limit, they would have taken the test. So what should you do if you find yourself in that unfortunate predicament? There is no ‘right’ answer. Much depends on what you think the test might show. If you believe you will be clearly over the limit, refusing may be your best option. Particularly if there’s not a lot of other evidence of impairment such as an accident, bad driving, obvious indications of impairment or poor roadside test results – WHICH YOU SHOULD NEVER AGREE TO PERFORM!

In any event, you have the right to speak to an attorney before deciding whether to take the breath test (sometimes) or answer questions (NEVER). And since you might have a hard time locating private counsel, always take advantage of the free on-call public defender who can give you advice. You can hire counsel of your choice later. And if you arrested for DUI or DWI in Whatcom or Skagit Counties including Bellingham, Ferndale, Blaine, Lynden, Mount Vernon, Burlington, Anacortes, Oak Harbor or anywhere in northwest Washington, feel free to give me a call at 360-756-5120 anytime of the day or night and I will do my best to answer or return your call promptly.

As always, the best advice is simply not to drink and drive. There is no cab as expensive as hiring an attorney.

[1] There is an exception of employer owned vehicles being driven for work.