Refusing a Roadside Breathalyzer in California

March 17, 2021

Should I Take a Breathalyzer During a California Traffic Stop?

Refusing a Roadside Breathalyzer in California

One of the questions attorneys are most often asked is whether someone should submit a breathalyzer test when pulled over. A Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test is the breathalyzer law enforcement attempts to get you to submit to while on the side of the road. Generally, you are allowed to refuse to submit to a PAS test and will not face any consequences. So long as you are legally allowed to, it is best to nicely but firmly reject the PAS breathalyzer test in California.

What Is a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Breathalyzer?

In California, a preliminary alcohol screening test is one of the various methods a police officer can use to determine whether you were driving under the influence of alcohol. As soon as you are pulled over for a traffic stop, be aware that law enforcement is judging whether they should arrest you for a DUI. Every question you are asked is part of their evaluation. This includes the typical “have you been drinking tonight?”

The PAS test will typically occur once an officer has requested you “step outside the vehicle.” You may also be offered a field-sobriety test. The field sobriety test can be used instead of or in addition to a PAS breathalyzer. It also can be politely refused.

At the side of the road, a PAS test will attempt to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to determine if it exceeds a legal limit for driving. The PAS is a handheld system that is supposed to be able to measure your BAC.

How Is a PAS Breathalyzer Used?

In California, personal motorists over the age of 21 cannot drive if their BAC is 0.08% or greater. Therefore, if a PAS test determines your BAC is at an illegal level, you will be placed under arrest for DUI.

The PAS roadside test is not to be confused with an evidentiary breath or blood test that occurs at the police station after you are placed under arrest. Those typically cannot be refused without consequences. However, the PAS can be turned down at a traffic stop. Because the accuracy of PAS devices varies and requires frequent calibration, it is best to not take the test at all.

Who Cannot Refuse a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Breathalyzer?

California allows most of its citizens to choose not to take a PAS test while on the side of the road. The police officer will probably not present the breathalyzer as voluntary, but you do have the right to refuse to take it.

There are two groups of people required to submit to a PAS breathalyzer during a traffic stop. The first is drivers under the age of 21. If you are younger than 21, California has a zero-tolerance law for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. As part of its regulations, California requires younger drivers to submit to a PAS test if asked. Refusal will result in your license being suspended for at least one year.

The second group of people is those who are on DUI probation. Like drivers under 21, you cannot refuse the PAS test because of California’s zero-tolerance policies. If you are on DUI probation and do not submit to a roadside breathalyzer, your license will automatically be suspended for one to three years.

Experienced DUI defense attorneys have answers to all your questions about DUI stops, arrests, and charges. If you refused a traffic stop breathalyzer and were arrested in Irvine, California, call Chambers Law Firm today at 855-397-0210 or email to set up an no-obligation consultation.

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