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No License Suspensions for PBT Refusal

Massachusetts Registry News

Two different breathalyzer tests are usually performed in Massachusetts Operating Under the Influence cases and refusing one of these breath tests can result in the loss of your driver’s license for 6 months up to life. It is important to understand the differences between these breath tests.

Many Massachusetts police officers are equipped with Preliminary Breath Test devices which are also referred to as Portable Breath Test devices. In DUI cases, police officers use these portable hand-held devices as part of the pre-arrest screening process to determine if there is probable cause to arrest the motorist for DUI. These PBTs are administered roadside, usually as the final part of field sobriety evaluations. The PBT results are inadmissible in court, because these devices do not meet the certification requirements of G.L. c. 90 § 24K and related state regulations.

Before an officer can operate a PBT in Massachusetts, he or she must be certified to do so. Tests conducted by an uncertified police officer are not considered valid.

There is no license suspension consequence associated with refusing to take a preliminary / portable breath test and these results are generally inadmissible in the prosecution’s DUI case.

When a person is arrested for Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol in Massachusetts, the police have the option of offering the defendant a test of his or her breath or blood. A refusal to submit to this test, which is administered at a hospital or the police station, will result in a license suspension ranging for 6 months for first offenders over 21 years of age, to lifetime for those who refuse a chemical test with 3 prior DUI convictions or alcohol program assignments.

If you refuse to submit to a breath test back at the police station, after being arrested for DUI, the police will notify the Registry of the breathalyzer refusal and the Registry will automatically suspend your license. You only have 15 days from the arrest date to appeal this suspension and you can only appeal by appearing in person at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, 136 Blackstone Street, 3rd floor, during normal business hours on regular business days. No refusal suspension hearings are conducted on weekends or holidays.

If you are serious about winning your breathalyzer refusal hearing, you should consider hiring a lawyer, especially if you are a repeat offender and you are facing a 3-year, 5-year, or lifetime license revocation. The penalties for refusal are harsh and no hardship licenses are available during chemical test refusal suspension periods for repeat offenders. Chemical test refusals will so trigger mandatory Commercial Driver License (CDL) revocations.

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