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Understanding implied consent to a breath test

When drivers in Iowa and elsewhere are stopped by police officers, they may or may not be aware of their rights during this stop. While it is clear that there are steps and procedures for police officers to take during the stop, some drivers may not understand what they have consented to when they applied for and obtained a driver's license. In matters when a driver is suspected of drunk driving, there is an implied consent to a breath test if an officer requests one.

When a driver is stopped based on the suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, a police officer will typically check for various signs of impairment before asking a driver to submit to a breathalyzer test. This test helps determine what the driver's blood alcohol concentration is and whether or not they are over the legal limit.

While a police officer is not required to administer a breath test during the field sobriety test, a driver is required to comply with the request if a police officer seeks to administer a breath test. The refusal of a breathalyzer test could result in penalties. Because motorists give implied consent to this testing when they obtain a driver's license, the refusal to submit to this test when an officer has reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence of alcohol could result in an automatic license suspension with the possibility of other penalties.

Even if drivers believe that police officers do not have enough evidence to prove that they were driving under the influence of alcohol, they could still face penalties for refusing a breath test. This is true even if the driver is not charged or convicted of an OWI.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Implied Consent Laws," accessed April 9, 2017

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