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Can I refuse to take a chemical test after an OVI arrest?

When you hear the blare of sirens and look up to see flashing police lights in your rearview mirror, it can be a nerve-wracking moment. Winding up in handcuffs, placed under arrest on suspicion of operating a vehicle impaired (OVI), can add to the confusion. There might be so many thoughts running through your mind that it’s hard to keep everything straight.

Having a good understanding of what the law allows can be helpful, particularly when it comes to chemical tests. Do you have to offer a blood sample if an officer asks? And what happens if you refuse?

A refusal comes with penalties

Like many states, Ohio has a law known as implied consent. It means that simply by choosing to drive a vehicle within the state, you are opting to consent to a chemical test if you’re arrested on suspicion of OVI.

If an officer arrests you and you refuse to take the requested chemical test, you are immediately subject to a penalty. The state can suspend your license for one to five years, and you will be forced to pay a reinstatement fee before getting it back.

In addition, know that if you are unconscious or incapable of refusing, law enforcement can administer the chemical test as if you had consented.

An officer can use reasonable means to get a sample

Ohio law also gives officers the right to use “whatever reasonable means are necessary” in order to obtain a blood sample from an arrested individual for the purpose of a chemical test. It also states the officer is immune from assault, battery and other claims tied to the blood draw, unless the officer “acted with malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner.”

Remember, this implied consent law only applies to circumstances in which an officer has arrested somebody on suspicion of OVI. While being pulled over can be intimidating, knowing your rights – and the law – ahead of time can provide some guidance while in the moment.