Former Prosecutor Serving Minnesota And Wisconsin Since 1992

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What happens if you refuse a DWI breath test?

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2023 | DWI/Drunk Driving

If you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in Minnesota, some of the best evidence the police can get is from a test that measures your blood alcohol concentration, or BAC. Officers can do this on the spot with a chemical breath test. These come in a variety of forms, but they are commonly referred to by the name Breathalyzer, which is actually the trade name of one manufacturer. In some cases, officers will take a driver to another facility where they can draw blood or urine to do further BAC tests.

If the results of your tests show that you had a BAC of 0.08% or higher, you are considered legally too drunk to drive. Armed with these results, prosecutors may easily win a conviction against you when your case goes to court.

But what happens if you refuse to submit to a breath test? Do the prosecutors have to drop the case?

The answer is most likely no.

Implied consent

Minnesota law presumes that all drivers have consented in advance to a BAC test when they have been pulled over on suspicion of DWI. This concept is commonly known as “implied consent.”

Refusing a test is considered a crime in itself. You may not face any mail time over it, but you could face suspension of your driver’s license. (Note that if you are violent with the police when you refuse, you may be charged with obstructing legal process, which is a more serious offense.)

Administrative license revocation

If you refuse a BAC test, the police may obtain a search warrant to obtain a blood or urine sample from you. If you refuse to cooperate, your license can be revoked immediately.

Generally, the police will give you a temporary license that is good for one week. After that, your license is withdrawn.

The duration of the revocation depends on your record and the circumstances of your arrest. If you haven’t had any convictions or charges involving impaired driving within the previous 10 years, your license may be revoked for 90 days. The revocation can last longer if there were aggravating factors — for instance, if you were suspected of DWI while you had children in your car.

Depending on the circumstances, the authorities may even take away your vehicle’s license plate or even impound your car.

Other evidence

It’s important to remember that, while the BAC test results can be very strong evidence, they aren’t the only evidence the prosecution can use. When police pull you over on suspicion of DWI, they may ask  you to perform a series of tests designed to measure your coordination and reaction times. For instance, they may ask you to walk in a straight line. The police will take notes if they smelled alcohol on your breath, heard you slurring your words or saw you struggling to perform the sobriety tests. These notes can be used as evidence against you in court.

Defending against DWI charges

Still, in many cases, BAC test results are the strongest evidence the prosecution has. If you can show that the BAC results are not trustworthy, you can knock the wind out of the sails of the prosecution’s case.

That’s why one defense strategy in your case could be to argue that the breath test results were not reliable because the breath test device was defective, or the officer was not using it properly.

The exact strategies you and your defense attorney will use depend upon the unique circumstances of your case.