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Refusing a breath test in South Carolina

Routine traffic stops can be troubling experiences for some drivers, particularly if they are nervous about failing a breath alcohol test. In South Carolina, a driver is considered too intoxicated to drive when their blood alcohol content is greater than .08 percent. Drivers have the right to refuse to take a breath alcohol test if a police officer asks to perform one; however, there are consequences to refusing a test.

According to South Carolina drunk driving laws, the state assumes that all licensed drivers consent to drug and alcohol testing, including breath tests, if an officer detains them on suspicion of DUI. The law requires that a license suspension of at least six months follow a refusal to take a test. The driver's refusal to take the test can be submitted as evidence of the driver's intoxication in court. When a driver refuses to submit to a test, an officer may choose to pursue a blood test. However, police must obtain a warrant before a blood sample can be taken.

A driver who refuses to take a breath alcohol test may suspect that the results will indicate that they are intoxicated, and they may be unwilling to provide police with evidence that could be used against them. After a refusal, police may be unable to obtain evidence such as a blood test showing the driver's blood alcohol content. However, prosecutors may argue that the driver's refusal to take a test is evidence of the accused person's knowledge that they were driving drunk.

In the absence of clear evidence of their client's guilt, a defense attorney may move for dismissal of drunk driving charges. In other cases, attorneys may be able to secure lesser penalties for their clients by working with prosecutors to amend charges to reckless driving or other reduced offenses in exchange for a guilty plea.

Source: South Carolina Legislature, "South Carolina Code of Laws", September 19, 2014

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