What Are the Legal Consequences For Refusing a Breath Test?

In Australia, police have had the authority to administer breath tests to measure the concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood while driving or attempting to drive since 1985.

If an officer stops you for a random breath test while you are driving or in the driver’s seat of a vehicle on a public road, you are required to comply with the test. Refusing to take a breath test can result in serious legal consequences.

When can a sample of my breath be requested?

Under Section 80(2) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995, the police can request a breath or saliva test from a person if they reasonably suspect that in the last preceding three hours, that person was;

(a) driving a motor vehicle, tram or train on a road or elsewhere; or
(b) attempting to put in motion a motor vehicle, tram or train on a road or elsewhere; or
(c) in charge of a motor vehicle, tram or train on a road or elsewhere; or
(d) driving or in charge of or attempting to put in motion a vessel being used or apparently about to be used in navigation.

If a vehicle is involved in an accident that causes injury or death to any person or damage to property, the police may request that any person involved in the incident take a breath or saliva test if they reasonably suspect that the person was driving, attempting to drive, or in control of the vehicle at the time of the incident.

Additionally, the police may request a breath test if they have reasonable belief that the person driving or in control of the vehicle was impaired.

What happens if I refuse a breath test?

Under the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995, it is a serious offense to refuse a breath test, regardless of whether or not a person has consumed alcohol or drugs.

This offense carries legal consequences, including lengthy disqualification periods and substantial fines.

In Queensland, refusing a breath test can result in a six month license disqualification, a fine of 60 penalty units, or up to six months imprisonment. This penalty is the same as the penalty for having an alcohol blood concentration level of 0.15% or higher. It is also a violation of the Act to refuse or fail to provide a breath test voluntarily at a police station.

If a person refuses, the police are allowed to use “such force as is necessary” to detain the person for the purpose of taking the required laboratory test.

The consequences of failing to comply with the police under Section 80(11) of the Act are equivalent to driving under the influence of alcohol as outlined in Section 79(1) of the Act.

What is blood alcohol content (BAC)?

In Queensland, there are four alcohol limits:

  • No alcohol limit – blood alcohol concentration should be 0.00
  • General alcohol limit – blood alcohol concentration is equal to or more than 0.05
  • Middle alcohol limit – blood alcohol concentration is equal to or more than 0.10
  • High alcohol limit – blood alcohol concentration is equal to or more than 0.15

I have been charged with failing to provide a specimen of breath.

If you have been accused of refusing a breath test, it is important to seek legal advice from a traffic lawyer as soon as possible. At Fraser Lawyers, we can provide guidance on this offence and all other traffic offences in Queensland. Contact us by email or phone to speak with a member of our team.