Carrying a driver’s license is both a responsibility and privilege. When Virginia issues you your license, you agree to abide by the rules of the road and that failure to do so could result in the suspension of your license. By obtaining a driver’s license, you also agree to submit to a breath or blood test if an officer suspects you of drunk driving.

However, you may have heard that there is one test the law does not require you to take. What’s the deal? Do you need to take a breath or blood test or what?

The truth

State law says that you consent to a breath or blood test when you operate a vehicle in Virginia. That means that you can refuse to take the breathalyzer but then you must take a blood test or face the consequences.

Penalties for unreasonably refusing both tests will cost you your license for one year and refusing the tests again results in a three-year suspension of your license. To make matters worse, those suspensions stack on top of any drunk-driving-related license suspensions. For perspective, first-time offenders could lose their license for a year and refusing both tests twice could lead to a four-year license suspension in total.

That’s a long time without being able to legally drive.

Why do people refuse breathalyzers?

Some estimates say that breathalyzer devices have as much as a 15 percent to 23 percent margin for error, whereas the most accurate testing of a person’s blood alcohol content is a blood test. That margin for error with breathalyzers could make the difference between testing over or under the legal limit.

While it’s not wise to refuse both a blood and breath test during a drunk driving stop, opting for a blood test instead of a breathalyzer could be a good idea. You know your responsibilities as a driver’s license holder, but you should also know your rights.