Refusing a breath test in South Caroina

When South Carolina residents obtain their driver's licenses, they agree to submit to a test of their breath, blood or urine when ordered to do so by a police officer. However, the implied consent law only goes into effect when the motorist has been placed under arrest. This means that police officers must have probable cause to believe that motorists are operating their vehicles under the influence of alcohol before they can demand that they submit to chemical tests.

Drivers who feel that the results of a breath test would give prosecutors the evidence they need to secure a drunk driving conviction may be tempted to refuse to submit to testing. While a refusal would deny prosecutors valuable evidence, it would not make proving such charges in court impossible. In many situations, the refusal could be almost as incriminating as the toxicology evidence would have been. Drivers who refuse to submit to a breath test also face mandatory sanctions. This means drivers who refuse a breath test and are then convicted of DUI are punished twice.

Drivers who refuse a breath test in South Carolina lose their driving privileges for six months for a first offense, nine months for a second offense and 12 months for a third offense. They are also required to enroll in the state's Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program. First offenders can apply for a restricted driver's license if they install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.

Criminal defense attorneys with experience in drunk driving cases may suggest consenting to a breath test in most situations. This is because toxicology evidence is not infallible and may often be challenged. Breath test results could be disputed if the equipment used was not correctly calibrated or properly maintained, and even blood tests may be challenged if the sample used was mishandled or the individual being tested suffers from certain medical conditions.

Source: The South Carolina Legislature, "South Carolina Code of Laws-Title 56 - Motor Vehicles", accessed on Nov. 12, 2019

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