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It is against the law to drink a dangerous amount of alcohol before driving. People are subject to arrest both when their intoxication affects their ability to drive and when they are over the legal limit for their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Police officers may question to sobriety of a driver during a traffic stop or after a collision.

For the state to establish that someone is over the legal limit, a chemical test is necessary. Police officers often request that drivers perform a breath test after an officer decides to arrest that individual on suspicions of impairment. Someone accused of a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense in New York might choose to decline a breath test. However, in doing so, they may unknowingly violate New York’s implied consent law and open themselves up to other penalties.

What does implied consent mean?

Many scenarios involving police investigations require warrants or permission from an individual. The right against self-incrimination could make it very difficult for officers to investigate possible DWI offenses and hold people accountable.

Lawmakers enacted an implied consent statute to make it easier to gather evidence of drunk driving. It is a condition of someone’s license to give proactive consent to future chemical testing. People agree to submit to tests when officers have reason to suspect that they are under the influence. Implied consent simply means that the decision to drive indicates that someone has already consented to necessary chemical testing.

What if someone violates this law?

Refusing to perform a breath test after an officer has grounds for a DWI arrest could lead to additional challenges. Someone who violates the New York implied consent law could face penalties for that violation and also prosecution for a DWI offense.

The first time someone violates the implied consent law, the courts can suspend their license for a year and order them to pay a $500 fine. Someone with a prior test refusal or DWI conviction would face up to 18 months without driving privileges and $750 in fines. Those penalties are in addition to the consequences of a DWI conviction.

Understanding the rules that govern law enforcement and traffic in New York may help people avoid unintentionally breaking the law. This understanding can also help to influence an individual’s defense strategy post-arrest if their situation involves exceptions to various rules.