Things to bear in mind before refusing a breathalyzer in Alaska

Given that most Alaskan drivers know it is against state law to drive with a breath-alcohol-concentration of 0.08 percent or more, many may be tempted to refuse a breathalyzer if they are ever arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). However, before they do this, motorists must realize that they can face serious consequences for refusing chemical testing following an Alaskan DUI arrest - not to mention they may still have to deal with DUI charges even if they do not take an official breath test.

Alaska's implied consent law is the reason that drivers can be punished for refusing chemical testing. Basically, this law dictates that a person arrested for a DUI is already "considered to have given consent" to chemical testing merely by operating a motor vehicle in Alaska. Typically, this chemical testing involves a driver providing breath samples into a Datamaster breathalyzer machine.

Under Alaska law, if a driver wrongfully refuses to submit to such chemical testing after being arrested, he or she can face criminal charges - specifically, a class A misdemeanor. Additionally, even a first-time wrongful refusal may result in various penalties, including:

  • Revocation of the driver's license for 90 days
  • Not less than 3 days in jail
  • Fine of $1,500
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on the driver's car for at least 6 months
  • Possible court-ordered participation in an alcohol safety action program

Moreover, these penalties increase exponentially for each subsequent wrongful refusal. For instance, a second refusal may result in a license revocation of one year, in addition to 20 days in jail, a fine of $3,000 and a minimum of 12 months with an IID.

Can you be forced to submit to chemical testing in Alaska?

While in most circumstances police cannot force a driver to submit to chemical testing if he or she refuses - or otherwise withdraws his or her implied consent - there are some important exceptions to this rule when a driver essentially has no choice in the matter. For example, if a driver is arrested following a car accident in which another person is injured or killed, and it is alleged that the driver was operating his or her motor vehicle while intoxicated, the police may be able administer a chemical test to determine the possible presence of alcohol, even if the driver tries to refuse.

Additionally, if a person is unconscious - and thus unable to withdraw his or her implied consent - the police can also administered chemical testing. However, it is important to note that if police require testing in these select situations, a driver cannot be charged with a wrongful refusal even if he or she attempts to refuse.

In the end, the law in Alaska regarding DUI-related offenses can be quite complicated, which is why it is generally best to consult with a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney if you are currently facing drunk driving charges. An experienced attorney can outline what your options may be given your circumstances and help ensure your rights are protected.