Legal Columns

What Happens If I Refuse to Submit to a DWI Chemical Test?

In Arkansas, if you are suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, you are deemed to have given your consent to be subject to a chemical test. This means that even though you did not directly give permission to provide a specimen for analysis, the law assumes you did because you drove on Arkansas' roads with alcohol in your system. However, if you do not submit to a test, you will not be giving the State chemical test evidence of your level of intoxication, which may be helpful in defending your DWI.

After lawfully arresting you, a law enforcement officer can request for you to provide a sample of your breath, saliva, or urine to determine your blood alcohol concentration. Technically, you can refuse to participate in the chemical test, but doing so could have consequences on your driving privileges. We will discuss what can happen if you do not provide a sample for testing.

(Note that if the officer wants to subject you to a blood test, they must first obtain a warrant from a judge, and generally, a sample can be taken even if you refuse.)

Immediate Driver's License Seizure

Arkansas law (A.R.S. 5-65-402) provides that an arresting officer can immediately take your driver's license for refusing to participate in a DWI chemical test. For such action to be justified, the officer must have arrested you based on reasonable suspicion that you were under the influence while driving.

After the officer takes your driver's license, they must issue a temporary driving permit. This can only be done if your current driver's license is not expired or invalid. The permit allows you to drive for up to 30 days.

Requesting a Hearing

If the officer takes your driver's license because you refused a chemical test, an administrative process begins. The Office of Driver Services oversees this stage.

The administrative process is not your criminal case. It is not concerned with whether you are guilty or innocent of DWI. Instead, it focuses on whether you refused the chemical test and should be sanctioned for doing so.

You have 7 days to request a hearing with the Office of Driver Services to challenge the suspension of your driver's license. If you win, your driving privileges may be restored. However, if the Office does not decide in your favor, you will be subject to a driver's license suspension.

Penalties for Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Test

The penalties you could face for not providing a breath, saliva, or urine sample depend on whether you have any previous violations.

The sanctions that may be imposed are as follows:

  • First offense: 180-day suspension
  • Second offense within 5 years of the first: 2-year suspension. Subsequent offenses may have increased penalties.

Before you can reinstate your driving privileges, you must satisfy certain conditions such as completing a drug and alcohol treatment program or installing an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

If you did not have a valid driver's license at the time of your refusal, the Office of Driver Services will deny your application for a license or permit. For a first offense, the denial period is 6 months. For a second or subsequent offense, it's 1 year.

If you have been charged with a DWI or accused of a chemical test refusal, our Northwest Arkansas lawyers at Norwood & Norwood, P.A. are ready to help you through the criminal and administrative processes. Contact us at (479) 235-4600 today.

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