What if I Refuse Breath Testing in the State of Washington?

Pursuant to section 46.20.308 of the Revised Code of Washington, any driver who operates a motor vehicle anywhere in the state impliedly consents to breath testing to determine any alcohol concentration in his or her blood. A police officer need only have reasonable grounds to believe that a person was under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both while driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. That police officer is required to inform the suspect of his or her right to refuse any such testing.


Police officers often ask a driver to blow into a portable breath testing (PBT) device at the scene of the traffic stop. Washington law doesn’t require you to blow into that device, and there are no legal consequences for refusing the test. That’s because a PBT isn’t an officially approved breath testing machine.

The Warnings

Before administering a breath test, the officer is also required by law to specifically warn the subject that any refusal to submit to it is going to result in a suspension or revocation of their driver’s license and might be used against him or her in a bench or jury trial.

Subjects over the age of 21 must also be warned that that if breath testing reveals a blood alcohol content of .08 or above, their driver’s license will be suspended for at least 90 days. If the subject is under the age of 21, the blood alcohol content drops down to .02. Finally, the officer is required to advise the individual of eligibility for license reinstatement. These warnings are ordinarily read to the suspected drunk driver at the police station. Then comes decision time. Are you going to submit to breath testing or refuse it?

The Consequences if You’re Found Guilty

The State of Washington provides that you’ll lose your driver’s license for at least a year if you refuse to submit to breath testing. You only lose it for 90 days if you submit, and your blood alcohol content is .08 or above. Refusing a breath test might ultimately make court proceedings more difficult. If you refuse testing, that refusal is admissible in a trial to determine your guilt or innocence. If you’re found guilty, there is an increased fine and jail sentence along with a longer driver’s license suspension.

The Blood Test

If the officer who took you into custody wants to obtain a search warrant, blood can be taken from you to determine your alcohol content. This test cannot be refused. That means the prosecution can obtain a reading of your blood alcohol content one way or another if it really wants to.

Contact a lawyer

The facts and circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest along with any prior criminal history can affect the result in your case. It’s important to get a consultation with a defense lawyer if you’ve been charged with DUI. Don’t wait too long though. You only have 20 days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing with the Department of Licensing. Otherwise, your suspension or revocation is automatic. For additional reading, visit this website for more information on DUI defense in Spokane and Washington State.

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