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Can Hawaiians refuse a breathalyzer test?

On Behalf of | Aug 9, 2023 | Criminal Defense

If you are pulled over by a police officer here and suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may wonder if you have to take a breathalyzer test. The answer is not simple in Hawaii.

Breathalyzer tests

Breathalyzer test results are used to estimate your blood alcohol concentration, which is the percentage of alcohol in your blood. In Hawaii, the legal limit for BAC is 0.08% for drivers 21 years and older, and 0.02% for drivers under 21.

Kinds of breathalyzer tests

There are two kinds of BAC tests: preliminary and evidentiary. A preliminary test usually involves a breathalyzer or other chemical breath test device that an officer can use at the roadside to screen for alcohol impairment. An evidentiary breath test is a more accurate device that is used at a police station or other facility after an arrest.

Do I have to take a breath test?

No, you do not have to take a preliminary breath test in Hawaii. This test is voluntary, and you have the right to refuse it without any legal consequences. However, if you refuse, you will have your license suspended for a year. The officer may still arrest you based on other evidence of impairment.

Do I have to take an evidentiary test?

Yes, you do have to take an evidentiary in Hawaii, unless you have a valid medical reason for not doing so. This is because Hawaii has an implied consent law, which means that by driving in the state, you agree to submit to a chemical test of your breath, blood or urine, if you are lawfully arrested for DUI.

Test refusals

If you refuse an evidentiary test in Hawaii, you will face serious administrative penalties from the Department of Transportation and the Administrative Driver’s License Revocation Office. These penalties include a license suspension of 2 years for a first offense, 3 years for a second offense within 5 years, 4 years for a third offense within 5 years and 2 to 8 years for a fourth or subsequent offense within 10 years.

You may have a requirement to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle after your suspension period ends. You also may face a denial of a restricted license that would allow you to drive for work or other purposes during your suspension period. Though, you could also face revocation of your vehicle registration.

In addition to these administrative penalties, refusing a test can also affect your criminal case. The prosecutor can use your refusal as evidence of your guilt in court, and the judge can consider it as an aggravating factor when imposing fines, jail time, probation, community service or alcohol education programs.