The Impact of Refusing a Blood-Alcohol Test on Your Louisiana Driver’s License

Breathalyzer_trainingIf you’re arrested on suspicion of DWI, you have the option of refusing a chemical test to measure your blood-alcohol content. If you are arrested multiple times and refuse multiple tests, this may have an impact on the status of your Louisiana driver’s license. If the state suspends your license, the law gives you certain rights with regard to challenging that suspension. In one recent case, a ruling against a driver was overturned by the Louisiana Court of Appeal because a District Court did not follow the correct procedure for hearing the driver’s challenge of his license suspension.

The driver involved was Johnny Cook, Jr., whom law enforcement officers arrested in March 2013 on suspicion of driving drunk. The driver received the option of submitting to a breathalyzer test. Both the driver and the arresting officer signed a form stating that the officer informed the driver of his rights regarding chemical tests. Cook refused the test.

The state charged him with second-offense DWI, but the driver ultimately pled guilty to reckless operation of a vehicle. Additionally, in accordance with La. R.S. 32:667, the state suspended Cook’s driver’s license for two years. An administrative law judge upheld the suspension based upon the driver’s refusal of the test. Cook challenged this decision before the District Court. The state argued that Cook’s most recent incident was his third arrest and third refusal of a chemical test, which triggered a two-year suspension.

The driver’s attorney argued that, since the man was convicted of reckless operation and not a DWI crime, he should get his license back immediately. He also argued that his first two refusals should not count against him because the statutory section establishing the two-year suspension for multiple test refusals was not enacted until 2012, and Cook’s first two arrests happened before that date.

The District Court upheld the ALJ’s decision. The driver appealed, and the appeals court sent the case back to the District Court for further action. The reason for the reversal was that the District Court did not follow the proper procedure for dealing with a challenge like Cook’s. When a driver seeks a District Court’s review of an ALJ’s license suspension decision, the law requires the District Court to conduct a complete civil trial on the matter to determine the correctness of the suspension. These trials follow all of the usual rules of civil trial procedure and burdens of proof.

In Cook’s case, the District Court simply heard the contest as a “show cause” matter. The District Court neither heard any testimony nor received any evidence with regard to Cook’s arrests or his test refusals. The only evidence in the case was the exhibits attached to the memorandum submitted by the state in advance of the hearing. This was not the proper way to handle the challenge because, in creating La. R.S. 32:668, the “legislature envisioned a hearing in the district court encompassing the taking of testimony and the introduction of evidence to which the rules of civil procedure and evidence would apply.”

Since Cook did not get that, the District Court’s decision was overturned.

Even if you find your driver’s license suspended, this does not mean that you are out of options. The law gives you certain rights for challenging your license suspension. For helpful advice and determined representation regarding your DWI issue, contact the Louisiana DWI/DUI attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our DWI attorneys can provide you with the information and the advocacy you need.

For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 1-888-89-CARDONE (1-888-892-2736).

More blog posts:

Calculating When an Old DWI Ceases to ‘Count’ Against You Under Louisiana Law, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, April 30, 2015

Challenging Your DWI Sentence in Louisiana, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, March 27,2015