Sometimes the best way to get a perspective on Massachusetts laws is to take a look outside the state to see how other jurisdictions handle certain DUI issues. Take for example the breathalyzer test laws in Illinois. If a person with no prior DUI convictions refuses to take the breathalyzer test there will be a one year loss of license. In Illinois, unlike Massachusetts, a hardship license can be granted to anyone who refuses the breathalyzer after thirty days. Massachusetts makes no such provision. Rather, unless the case is resolved favorably prior to the expiration of the 180 day suspension the restriction remains in place.
In Illinois, 2007 statistics show that over fifty eight of people stopped for DUI take the breathalyzer test. In Massachusetts, 2004 figures stated that only forty percent of the people stopped for OUI would take the breathalyzer test. That changed after the Massachusetts legislature passed Melanie's Law, a modification of OUI laws that provides rewards in the form of shorter suspensions or earlier hardship license eligibility for people who take the test, and fail. In Illinois the percentage of people who now refuse the test has increased whereas in Massachusetts more people are inclined to take the test. In Illinois there is also a suggestion that refusing these tests results in more acquittals.
A prominent Illinois drunk driving lawyer makes a great point when he says "No one should participate in an investigation of themselves for a crime. Why risk your freedom and innocence by submitting to a test done by a machine that is controlled by the police? That's what a Breathalyzer is." Some lawyers in Massachusetts might make the same statement. Keep in mind that your refusal to take the breathalyzer test in Massachusetts cannot be used as evidence against you at trial. However, any properly administered breathalyzer test can be used as evidence and a result of a .08 or higher in Massachusetts creates a presumption of impairment. This is far more difficult to overcome before a jury than are cases where the breathalyzer was not taken.
Also in Illinois there are times when drivers cannot refuse chemical tests. If you are involved in a serious crash where people are hurt or killed you must submit to a chemical test. There is the suggestion in Illinois that you can be forced to take a blood test in certain situations. Not so in Massachusetts. Illinois also recently established a law that punishes people who refuse to take breath tests at sobriety checkpoints. Here is how that works. Police set up sobriety checkpoints. A judge will be present at the checkpoints. If someone stopped refuses to take the breathalyzer test the judge on hand can issue a search warrant permitting the police to take blood from the suspect. Fortunately, Massachusetts has no such law.
Refusing The Breathalyzer In Massachusetts Not A Bad Alternative
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