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DMV and Court

Refusing to take a chemical test after being arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in California in violation of California V.C. Section 13353 - Refusal of Chemical Test, and carries serious consequences. The refusal may be charged as a separate offense in DUI criminal court. It also can be used to suspend or revoke driving privileges in a separate DMV action (California V.C. Section 23577 - Chemical Testing: Refusal to Take or Failure to Complete: Enhanced Penalties). And even though a refusal means there is no evidence of a driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) to introduce at the DUI trial, the fact that the person refused a chemical test can be offered against them to show "consciousness of guilt."

Because the repercussions can be so severe, it's imperative to consult with a California criminal defense attorney with experience defending DUI and California DMV cases. A skilled attorney can challenge chemical test refusal, and plan a strategy to fight the charges.

The most immediate punishment for refusing to take a chemical test likely will come from the California DMV. On a first offense with refusal, the driver's license will be suspended for one year, with no chance of receiving a restricted license.

The penalties are even more severe for multiple offenders. Even a driver who submits to a chemical test faces a license suspension, but the suspension is even longer for those who refuse. For a second offense within 10 years of a prior, the license will be suspended for two years. For a third offense within 10 years, the license will be suspended for three years. And on a fourth offense within 10 years, the punishment is the same whether or not the driver refused a chemical test - a four-year revocation of the driver's license.

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Courts also punish drivers who refuse to submit to chemical tests. Refusals are filed as additional counts in a drunk driving prosecution. If the driver is not specifically charged with a refusal, the court cannot increase the punishment. Like the underlying DUI charge, the refusal charge must also be proven. A motorist who is not convicted of the underlying driving under the influence (DUI) charge cannot be convicted on a refusal.

California drivers found guilty of DUI and refusal to submit to a chemical test face mandatory punishment that may include jail time and a longer alcohol education program. This jail time is in addition to any other term imposed by the court (California Vehicle Code Section 23577 Chemical Testing Refusal, Enhanced Penalties). If it is a first offense, the jail time is 48 hours. If it is the second offense, a refusal means 96 hours of jail. On a third offense with refusal, the penalty is 10 days in jail. For a fourth offense, the jail time is 18 days.

In the end, motorists benefit by submitting to chemical tests after an arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), but not everyone submits to a chemical test. An experienced California DUI defense lawyer who is familiar with the consequences of chemical test refusal will develop an aggressive defense strategy designed to ease sanctions against drivers who refuse the test.

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