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What Happens If I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Richland County, SC?

Understanding the legal and practical implications of refusing a breathalyzer test in Richland County, South Carolina, is crucial for anyone facing a DUI investigation. This comprehensive guide will educate potential clients on what to expect if they refuse a breathalyzer test, the immediate and long-term consequences, and how Thompson and Hiller Criminal Defense can help you navigate these challenges.

What is a Breathalyzer Test?

Definition and Purpose

A breathalyzer test is a device used by law enforcement to measure the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of a person suspected of driving under the influence (DUI). The test involves blowing into the device, which then calculates the amount of alcohol in the breath, providing an estimate of BAC. This is a common tool used to determine if a driver is legally intoxicated.

Legal Context in South Carolina

South Carolina operates under an implied consent law, which means that by holding a driver’s license, you have implicitly agreed to submit to chemical tests, such as breathalyzers, if a law enforcement officer suspects you of DUI. Refusing to take the test carries its own set of penalties, separate from those for a DUI conviction.

Consequences of Refusing a Breathalyzer Test

Immediate Penalties

Refusing a breathalyzer test in Richland County triggers immediate administrative penalties. The most immediate consequence is an automatic suspension of your driver’s license. For a first refusal, this suspension is typically six months, but it can be longer for subsequent refusals. Additionally, you may be arrested and taken into custody if the officer has probable cause to believe you are driving under the influence.

Long-Term Consequences

Refusing a breathalyzer test can have several long-term consequences:

  • Impact on Driving Record: The refusal will be noted on your driving record, which can affect your driving privileges and future interactions with law enforcement.
  • Increased Insurance Premiums: Insurance companies often view refusal to submit to a breathalyzer as an admission of guilt, which can lead to higher insurance premiums or even policy cancellations.
  • Possible Fines and Legal Fees: You may face additional fines and court costs associated with the refusal, along with the fees for legal representation to contest the suspension and any related DUI charges.

Administrative Hearings

If you refuse a breathalyzer test, you have the right to request an administrative hearing to contest your license suspension. It’s important to act quickly, as there is a limited window (typically 30 days) to request this hearing. During the hearing, you can present evidence and arguments as to why the suspension should be lifted. Having legal representation from a skilled DUI attorney, such as those at Thompson and Hiller, can significantly increase your chances of a favorable outcome.

Legal Defenses and Strategies

Challenging the Refusal

Several defenses can be used to challenge the consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test:

  • Procedural Errors: If the law enforcement officer did not follow proper procedures when administering the test or informing you of your rights, the refusal may be invalidated.
  • Lack of Probable Cause: If the officer did not have sufficient probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence, any subsequent refusal may be contested.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can affect your ability to perform a breathalyzer test, which may be used as a defense.

Mitigating Penalties

Even if the refusal is upheld, there are ways to mitigate the penalties:

  • Negotiating Reduced Penalties: An experienced attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the penalties associated with your refusal.
  • Enrollment in Alcohol Education Programs: Voluntarily enrolling in alcohol education or treatment programs can demonstrate your commitment to addressing any underlying issues, which may help in negotiations.

Common Questions and Answers

What Rights Do I Have If I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

In South Carolina, you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, but this refusal comes with consequences. You should be aware that refusing a test does not protect you from a DUI charge; it simply means the prosecution will use other evidence to prove impairment. If you are stopped by law enforcement, it is important to remain calm and respectful, ask for an attorney, and avoid making any incriminating statements.

Can I Appeal a License Suspension?

Yes, you can appeal a license suspension resulting from refusing a breathalyzer test. The appeal process involves requesting an administrative hearing where you can present evidence and arguments to contest the suspension. This hearing is separate from any criminal proceedings related to a DUI charge. An experienced DUI attorney from Thompson and Hiller can guide you through this process and help build a strong case for restoring your driving privileges.

How Can Thompson and Hiller Help?

Thompson and Hiller Criminal Defense provides comprehensive legal services for individuals facing DUI charges and breathalyzer test refusals in Richland County. Our approach includes:

  • Thorough Case Review: We meticulously review the details of your case to identify any procedural errors or violations of your rights.
  • Strong Defense Strategy: We build a robust defense strategy tailored to your specific circumstances, aiming to minimize or dismiss the charges against you.
  • Representation at Hearings: We represent you at administrative hearings to contest license suspensions and during court proceedings to defend against DUI charges.
  • Client Support: We provide ongoing support and guidance throughout the legal process, ensuring you understand your options and the potential outcomes.


Refusing a breathalyzer test in Richland County, South Carolina, carries significant consequences that can affect your driving privileges, financial status, and legal record. Understanding these consequences and knowing your rights can help you make informed decisions during a DUI investigation. It’s crucial to have knowledgeable legal representation to navigate these challenges effectively.

At Thompson and Hiller Criminal Defense, we are committed to providing high-quality legal representation for clients facing DUI charges and breathalyzer test refusals. Our team’s dedication to protecting your rights and minimizing the impact of these charges makes us the top choice for DUI defense in Richland County. If you or someone you know is dealing with a DUI charge, contact us today for a consultation.

For more information on South Carolina DUI laws and local procedures, visit the South Carolina Department of Public Safety and the South Carolina DMV.

Local Sources and References

Call to Action

If you are facing a DUI charge, don’t navigate this difficult time alone. Contact Thompson and Hiller Criminal Defense for a consultation today. Our experienced team is here to provide the support and defense you need. Reach out to us at our Columbia, SC office and let us help you protect your future.