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To breathe or not to breathe into a Breathalyzer

You've seen them in movies and on television shows. Those little boxes police officers have people blow into when they suspect that they are driving under the influence of alcohol. South Carolina uses them, along with other states across the country. When asked to submit to a Breathalyzer, do you have to do it?

Being pulled over by a police officer is an intimidating experience. Sometimes you may not be sure why they initiated the stop. Sometimes you may have an inkling but do not want to jump to any conclusions. When an officer starts asking you questions about alcohol and insists that you take a Breathalyzer test, what should you do? The truth is, you have a choice to comply or refuse.

Comply

If you comply, the readout from the Breathalyzer test may become evidence against you in court. The problem with this is, these machines are not 100 percent accurate. Many believe they are highly accurate, which is why they are still in use. However, any number of things can affect their accuracy and result in a false reading. Fighting to invalidate a breath test result can be quite the challenge.

Refuse

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 20 percent of all drivers asked to supply breath samples refuse. If you refuse -- which is your right -- there are typically consequences that will follow. The officer may arrest you and your driver's license may be automatically suspended. The state does have informed consent laws, which means when you get your South Carolina license, you agree to submit to sobriety testing. While that may be the case, you still have the right to make the choice to refuse.

What should I do?

That is an extremely personal question. This is something you have to decide in the moment. It is certainly easier to make the decision, though, when you know the consequences for going either direction.

If you submit to a Breathalyzer test or refuse one and end up facing criminal charges, you can challenge the charges. State laws allow you to defend yourself. With the assistance of legal counsel, you will have the ability to review any evidence offered against you which may bring information to light that will help you fight your case in court.

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