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Do you have the right to refuse chemical testing in a DUI stop?

Traffic and criminal laws vary substantially from state to state. However, all 50 states and the District of Columbia agree that driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol shouldn't be legal. For adults ages 21 or older in Hawaii, having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher can result in driving under the influence (DUI) charges. For those with commercial licenses, that cutoff lowers to 0.04 percent, with an arrest or conviction also affecting their career and licensing.

Generally speaking, law enforcement officers first begin to suspect DUI offenses when witnessing certain behavior on the road. Swerving, erratic driving and crossing the center line can all be sufficient reason to pull someone over. From there, a roadside field sobriety test may lead the officer to suspect impairment. Using this suspicion as probable cause, the officer will then request a chemical test. Sometimes drivers choose to refuse that request.

Anyone accused of a crime has the right to an attorney

The way that state prosecutors and law enforcement approach DUI offenses in Hawaii is changing, in part thanks to citizens asserting their legal rights. Under the law, anyone who drives a vehicle on state roads has already given implied consent to a chemical test if an officer suspects impairment. These laws exist in most states to facilitate enforcement of DUI laws.

In 2015, the state Supreme Court struck a blow to the application of implied consent laws in Hawaii, noting that drivers can't be compelled to provide a chemical test under threat of punishment. Finding that these kinds of laws are "inherently coercive" by penalizing those who invoke the right to refuse, the court said that coercion rendered this consent invalid.

In a more recent case, decided in the spring of 2017, the Supreme Court found that those stopped for suspicion of driving while intoxicated have the right to consult with an attorney before submitting to chemical testing. Anyone stopped by law enforcement and accused of potentially driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol has the right to request an attorney's advice as does anyone else accused of a serious criminal offense.

People accused of DUIs often don't understand their rights

One of the many issues about how law enforcement handle DUI arrests is that people who may not be in control of their full faculties are expected to review and sign a number of documents. These forms are complex, and accused people may not realize what signing them can mean for their legal situation in the future. Having an attorney present helps ensure that those accused of DUI offenses understand their rights and the paperwork presented to them by law enforcement.

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