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Can an officer demand that you take a breath test?

In Missouri, police officers take several approaches to determine whether someone may be violating the state's DWI laws. For example, there are field sobriety tests such as one-leg stands, but the reliability of these tests is questionable. Even figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that the tests are wrong 17 percent to 35 percent of the time.

With this error rate, many smart drivers pulled over decline to perform the tests. A police officer will likely then try to get you to take a breath test in the field. Can they force this test upon you?

You do not have to take the portable breath test

One answer to, "Can an officer demand that you take a breath test?" is no. That is, an officer can demand all he or she wants, but the law does not obligate you to take a portable breath test. What will probably happen then is that the police take you to a station for an official breath test. This is where matters get more nuanced; speak with an attorney before taking a test. You might have as many as 20 minutes to talk to one before making a final decision on whether you will submit to a breath test there.

Possible consequences of not taking the test

If you refuse to take the test at the police station, suspension of your driver's license may be one potential outcome because of Missouri's implied consent law. Canceled car insurance could be another. It is also possible for prosecutors to try to prove a DWI case using evidence such as camera recordings; the court does not necessarily require a breath test. So, you could end up with a DWI charge anyway.

The good news is that whether you take the breath test or not, it is possible to come out on top when fighting a DWI charge. Get in touch with an attorney as soon as you can.

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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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