If you are suspected of driving with excess alcohol in your body, you may be asked to provide a specimen of breath or breath sample at the roadside. This will usually be done by breathing into a ‘breathalyzer’. If that sample is positive, you are likely to be arrested and taken to the police station. Here we have provided some answers to questions around providing a breath sample, and what happens if you refuse to do so.


Why do I have to provide a specimen of breath again at the police station?

Once at the police station you will be asked to provide an evidential sample of breath, the sample taken at the roadside is just a preliminary test to see if you are over the limit.


What if I wasn’t over the limit or driving!

It is crucial to note that the fact you were not driving does not mean that you can refuse to provide a sample of breath, nor does it matter if you weren’t over the limit. If the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that you were driving and you refuse, without good reason to provide a sample, you may be guilty of the offence.


What if I can’t provide a specimen of breath or the machine is broken?

If it is accepted, for whatever reason, that you cannot provide a breath sample, you will be asked to provide a sample of blood or urine. Failure to provide the requested sample without good reason is an offence. Which sample is requested (blood or urine) is at the officer’s discretion and is not for you to choose.


What if I wasn’t warned?

You have to be warned that failure to provide the sample is an offence, if the warning is not given this may be a bar to conviction – seek early legal advice.


What is a refusal?

A failure to provide a sample, even not trying hard enough, for example, constitutes a refusal.

The taking of a sample cannot normally be delayed for you to be given legal advice although the police may allow that to happen.

Examples from cases where reasonable excuse has not been found include: a desire to see a doctor, the illegality of detention, mistake or genuine belief, religious belief, the sight of blood, stress.


Is there a defence for not providing a breath sample?

It is a defence to show that you had a reasonable excuse not to provide the sample. A medical reason such as asthma or a genuine needle phobia could constitute a reasonable excuse.


Penalties for not agreeing to breathalyzer?

A conviction will result in a mandatory disqualification of at least 12 months and is often in the region of 18 months or longer.

If you have a previous conviction in the last ten years for a drink or drug driving offence, the minimum disqualification will be three years.

As well as a disqualification you could be fined, given a community order or sentenced to up to 6 months in prison.


Is it different if I was not driving?

If you were suspected of being in charge of a vehicle before failing to provide a sample rather than driving, the penalty is different. You may be disqualified, but if the court chose not to, they would impose ten penalty points. The maximum prison sentence for this offence is three months.


How can we help?

The law in relation to failing to provide a specimen of breath can be complicated, if you would like expert advice, please contact us.

Reeds Solicitors is an award winning and leading top-tier criminal defence firm. For legal advice and representation, please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at info@reeds.co.uk.