Given that a breath or blood test often provides the key evidence in a Texas DWI case–after all, it is how police can ascertain a driver’s blood-alcohol content–you might think it is possible to avoid DWI charges or conviction simply by refusing to take the test. That is not the case. As a matter of constitutional law, you do have the right to refuse a Breathalyzer in most cases. Since the police need to “seize” a sample of your blood or breath to complete the test, they usually need a magistrate to issue a warrant before compelling you to give a sample.
But refusing a breath or blood test can have immediate consequences beyond your criminal case. Texas follows what is known as the “implied consent” rule. Basically, this means that by accepting a driver’s license, you are assumed to consent to any lawful request for a blood or breath test. So long as the arresting officer can show they had “probable cause” to arrest you on suspicion of drunk driving, your refusal to consent to chemical testing can be used against you in court.
More to the point, the State of Texas will automatically suspend your driver’s license for 180 days, even if you are never tried and convicted of DWI in court. The license suspension is considered a distinct civil penalty. And if you are arrested a second or third time for DWI and refuse a blood or breath test, the automatic license suspension period is 2 years.
It is also important to understand that there are certain situations where the police may take a sample of your blood for testing without your consent or waiting to obtain a warrant. For instance, if you are involved in a car accident that caused serious injury or death to another person, the police may conduct testing over your objections. Similarly, if you have at least two prior DWI convictions, or have been found guilty of intoxication assault, or intoxication manslaughter, a blood-alcohol test is considered mandatory in the event of any future arrest.