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Should I Refuse to Take a Breathalyzer Test?

Law enforcement utilize various types of chemical tests to measure how impaired a person is from drinking alcoholic beverages, using drugs, or another inebriating substance. The most common chemical test authorities fall back on is breath analysis, which is typically measured with an instrument known as a breathalyzer. Officers use breathalyzers to determine a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) with a breath sample. Law enforcement tend to administer a portable breathalyzer test first to determine if the individual is under the influence. If the test doesn’t give a reading of .08 BAC or higher, then they may take the person to station and use a standard sized breathalyzer rather than a portable breathalyzer they have on hand.

Breathalyzers are complicated machines that use a specialized reactive mixture to detect vaporized ethanol in a person’s system. If the device isn’t calibrated correctly, then the officer may receive skewed or false results. Other external factors can disrupt a breathalyzer’s reading including being on certain diets, having a slow metabolism, or even breath temperature.

 If you or someone you know has submitted or refused to undergo a breathalyzer test, it’s within your best interest to contact a skilled OWI defense attorney immediately.

Breathalyzer OWI Attorney in Des Moines, Iowa

Both the prosecution and law enforcement heavily rely on breathalyzer or other OWI chemical test results when attempting to convict a person of OWI. That is why it’s incredibly important you secure legal representation as soon as possible if you’ve submitted and failed a breathalyzer or other chemical test. If you’ve refused, it’s equally as important that you gain legal counsel. Although the penalties for a refusal are not as severe as OWI, that doesn’t mean you should take them lightly. You could lose your driver’s license and ability to drive in the state of Iowa for years if you don’t find experienced legal representation to assist you.

Find that attorney today by calling the legal team at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. Our criminal defense attorneys have spent years defending Iowan visitors and residents from OWI charges. They not only have decades of experience to fall back on, but our attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. have an in-depth understanding of the science behind OWI testing. We can utilize that knowledge to contest your results and fight for reduced or dismissed charges.

Set up your first consultation with McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. by calling (515) 279-9700. McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. accepts clients throughout the greater Des Moines, Polk County, and Dallas County area including West Des Moines, Ankeny, Altoona, Pleasant Hill, Johnston, Bondurant, Runnells, Alleman, Adel, Dallas Center, Perry, Waukee, Minburn, Redfield, Van Meter and De Soto. 

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Should You Take a Breathalyzer in Iowa?

If you’re pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in Iowa, then there’s a very high chance you’ll be asked to take a breathalyzer test. You can choose to refuse the breathalyzer test, but you should expect to face administrative penalties as a result for violating Iowa’s Implied Consent laws. These laws state that if you’re using Iowa public roads or highways, then you are also implicitly agreeing to submit to a chemical OWI test such as a breathalyzer. 

Violating implied consent laws does come with some consequences. You should expect to have your license suspended after the refusal and you may even be arrested as the officer could decide your refusal is enough probable cause to detain you. However, these consequences pale in comparison to the statutory penalties for OWI. If you’re convicted of OWI, you’ll likely face jail time, expensive fines, substance and alcohol abuse programs, driver’s courses, and other possible sentencing conditions that could have a major impact on your life. A refusal could also lead to OWI charges, but you will be in a much better position as a defendant because the prosecution will have little to no evidence of your intoxication.  

If you comply and submit to a breathalyzer test, then the prosecution will have concrete scientific evidence of your intoxication. However, if you refuse the breathalyzer or other chemical test, it will prevent the officer from gaining further evidence against you. The only evidence they will have of your intoxication without BAC results is the officer’s subjective testimony and possible body/dash cam footage. If that evidence is weak, then it will be very difficult for the prosecutor to obtain a conviction for OWI.

Additionally, breathalyzers and their results are not always accurate. These instruments and other lab equipment used for OWI testing must be maintained correctly. Failure to calibrate the machine or keep up with it could lead to false or skewed BAC readings. Not only that, but outside factors could influence BAC results. Certain circumstances such as having a slow metabolism or acid reflux could yield inaccurate BAC results. 

In the end, it’s ultimately up to you to decide if refusing a breathalyzer or other OWI test is worth the repercussions. You may decide to take the risk and comply if you feel confident that you’ll receive a reading under .08 BAC. However, taking that chance could have dire consequences. It’s important you weigh all the possible outcomes by contacting an experienced OWI attorney before you submit to a breathalyzer or other OWI test.


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How Accurate Are Breathalyzers?

The validity of BAC readings from breathalyzers or other OWI testing can at times be questionable. Breathalyzers can yield skewed and inaccurate results because of various internal and external factors. Some of these factors can be as simple as a change in diet or having a slow metabolism. Listed below are some common factors that could skew your BAC readings.

  • Electromagnetic interference with the device such as cellphone signals
  • You have acid reflux
  • The officer read the results wrong
  • You took cold medicine
  • You work with paint, lacquer, cleaning solvents or other alcohol
  • There are still traces of alcohol in your mouth
  • You have a slow metabolism
  • You belched, vomited or hiccupped right before the test
  • You’re on a diet
  • The officer didn’t follow procedures
  • The temperature of your breath
  • You have diabetes

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What Happens If I Refuse A Breathalyzer Test?

If you choose to refuse to a breathalyzer test, then you’ll face the administrative penalties associated with violating implied consent laws. For a first-time refusal, the Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will automatically suspend your driving privileges for one year. If you have previous OWI license revocations on your record, then the suspension will be enhanced to two years instead. You will also be required to pay a $200 civil penalty.

Thankfully, you have a right to contest your suspension. You can request to schedule an administrative review hearing and contest your license suspension with legal representation. At the hearing, your attorney can represent you on your behalf and present evidence to prove why you shouldn’t have been suspended after your refusal.


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Additional Resources

These Machines Can Put You in Jail | Just Don’t Trust Them – Visit the official website for the New York Times to read a story surrounding breathalyzers and their issues by writers Stacy Crowley and Jessica Silver-Greenburg. Access the document to learn why law enforcement shouldn’t rely on breathalyzers, stories about people who have experienced OWI charges after a false breathalyzer result, and the history of the breathalyzer. 

Implied Consent Laws in Iowa – Visit the official website for the Iowa Code to learn more about their implied consent laws. Access the site to learn the penalties for violating these laws, the legal limits for implied consent, and other various relevant information.


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Des Moines Attorney for OWI Defense in IA

If you or someone you know has been charged with OWI, then we highly encourage you to gain legal representation with McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. Our skilled attorneys can assess your breath, blood or urine analysis results for any errors and use that information to build a sturdy defense for you. With decades of legal experience and scientific knowledge to fall back on, the attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. can help you just as they’ve assisted hundreds of their previous clients charged with OWI.

Call McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. to speak to an experienced DWI attorney today. Our attorneys are passionate about criminal defense and want to use our skills to help you. Contact us today at (515) 279-9700 to schedule a free consultation. Our offices are based in West Des Moines, but we accept clients throughout the Polk County and Dallas County area.


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