West Virginia’s DUI Implied Consent Law Could Costs Drivers their Licenses – Dale v. Reed

A person arrested for DUI in West Virginia who refuses to submit to a breathalyzer or other chemical test will generally have his or her driver’s license revoked for anywhere from 45 days to the rest of his or her life. The state’s implied consent law, however, requires the police to first inform the person of the consequences of refusing the test verbally and in writing. In Dale v. Reed, the West Virginia Supreme Court recently explained that the cops are not required to make sure that the arrested driver actually understands the implications of refusing to submit to the test.

road-to-death-valley-1438370-m.jpgMs. Reed was arrested and charged with DUI after an incident in which she was pulled over by a police officer shortly after leaving a Kanawha County convenience store. Reed failed to signal before making a left turn, the officer said, and then turned into a car wash heading in the wrong direction. The officer said he observed Reed with empty alcohol containers in her car before exiting the vehicle. He also said she staggered after exiting the car and that he noticed that she smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes, and was slurring her speech when she approached him.

Reed failed the three sobriety tests performed on her after the police officer arrested her and took her to the local police department. He asked Reed to submit to a breathalyzer test. According to the cop, he also warned her that her license would be revoked for 45 days to life if she refused to take the test. Reed nevertheless refused the test.

The DMV ultimately decided to revoke Reed’s license for six months for the DUI and for one year for refusing to take the breathalyzer. The revocation was to run concurrently, meaning that her license would be suspended for one year total. The DMV’s Office of Administrative Hearings later reversed the decision, however, finding that the evidence didn’t show that Reed had given her implied consent to forego the breathalyzer in exchange for having her license revoked. Although the officer said he read an implied consent explanation to Reed and gave her a copy of the statement in writing at the time she refused the test, there was no copy of the statement in the DMV file. The officer also said he couldn’t recall whether Reed had said that she understood the implied consent law. A circuit court later affirmed the OAH’s decision.

Reversing the decision on further appeal, the Supreme Court said the evidence clearly showed that the officer gave Reed the implied consent warning both verbally and in writing. The officer checked a box on a DUI information sheet indicating that he had given the written consent form to Reed, and the officer also testified that he gave the warning verbally, according to the Court.

The Court also rejected Reed’s claim that the DMV was required to establish that she understood the implied consent warning at the time it was given. “No authority for this proposition has been supplied by Ms. Reed or cited by the OAH or circuit court below,” the Court wrote. “In fact, this Court has twice rejected this perceived requirement.” As a result, the Court reversed the decision and remanded the case with instructions that the one-year revocation be implemented.

This is just one example of the complicated legal issues that often arise in DUI cases. The West Virginia DUI lawyers at the Wolfe Law Firm have been serving clients throughout the state for more than 25 years. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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