When arresting someone for DWI in Minnesota, the entire process can be overwhelming and confusing. Almost always, the person is asked a number of questions, requested to perform field sobriety tests, requested to submit to a PBT, arrested, transported to a police station, and then (presumably) read their rights before being asked to take a chemical test once more.
It is not uncommon for a person to refuse a formal demand for a breath, urine, or blood test because they are so overwhelmed, confused, or otherwise. When this occurs, the individual may face more severe criminal and collateral consequences as a result of refusing a DWI test.
The Minnesota Implied Consent Statute
All drivers and operators of motor vehicles are presumed to have given their consent to chemical testing under Minnesota law. This means that if a police officer has reasonable suspicion that you have been drinking and driving, he or she can require you to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test. Note that a preliminary breath test (PBT) is distinct from the more stringent DATAMASTER breath test. You may refuse the PBT, but refusing the DATAMASTER is illegal.
You can be charged with a gross misdemeanor if you refuse to submit to the necessary blood, breath, or urine tests. You have the right to consult with an attorney before taking any test. Utilize this privilege and contact Ambrose Law immediately.
Testing Procedure for Refusal of a DWI Test
It is essential to understand that the DWI test refusal discussed in this blog pertains to the formal test offered at the police station and not the PBT administered at the side of the road. The latter may be refused without legal repercussions, other than an arrest. The officer invokes the implied consent law by requesting a formal breath, urine, or blood test after an individual is arrested and returned to the station.
If the officer wishes to administer a breath test using the DataMaster machine, he/she must first read the Breath Test Advisory and then obtain the individual’s consent. To conduct a urine or blood test, the officer must first obtain a search warrant. The detainee has the right to refuse any test, but must be informed that doing so is illegal.
Criminal Charges for Refusing a DWI Test
Even for first-time offenders, a DWI test refusal charge is a gross misdemeanor because it is considered an aggravating factor. Depending on the number of aggravating factors, it can range from a third-degree DWI to a first-degree DWI. The maximum penalty for a gross misdemeanor is one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. However, the mandatory minimum sentence depends on the number of prior convictions, not the number of aggravating circumstances.
In addition to the other DWI defenses that exist for all DWIs, a DWI Test Refusal requires the State to prove that the driver failed to complete the requested chemical test through verbal or physical refusal. Some situations are ambiguous, such as when a person attempts to submit to a breathalyzer test but cannot blow long enough or hard enough to register a reading. Or, a person who asks too many questions of the officer or otherwise delays the testing process may be deemed to have refused when, in fact, it is not sufficient to constitute a refusal.
Finally, it is essential to understand that the implied consent law must be followed precisely in order to successfully charge this offense. Meaning that the Breath Test Advisory must be read, the driver’s rights must be explained, an opportunity to speak with an attorney must be offered, and the driver must be informed that refusing is a crime. Although this is a simple task for the officer to perform, you’d be surprised at how often these statutory requirements are not met, resulting in a potential defense.
Collateral DWI Test Refusal Consequences
License revocation is the most immediate collateral consequence of a DWI test refusal. Even for a first offense, the license suspension period begins at one year. IF, HOWEVER, the individual pleads guilty to the DWI refusal charge, the suspension is reduced to 90 days. And if they plead guilty to a misdemeanor DWI of the fourth degree instead, their license is suspended for 30 days. This only occurs if the individual has never been convicted of a DWI. Fascinatingly, this creates a bizarre situation in which a person who knows they are intoxicated would be better off refusing the formal test and pleading guilty to either charge.In such cases, the period of revocation is either 90 or 30 days.
In contrast, regardless of how the criminal case is resolved, the revocation period is one year if the blitzed individual tests above.16. In addition to losing driving privileges for varying lengths of time based on the circumstances, refusing a DWI test can result in the impoundment of license plates and the forfeiture of the vehicle. If you are facing criminal charges for refusing a DWI test, you should be aware that prosecutors tend to take these charges more seriously than a standard DWI. They frequently view a Defendant charged with refusal as noncompliant and as someone who disregards the law. To ensure that you receive the proper defense and fight for your future, it is essential that you hire an experienced and strategic DWI lawyer.
Consult With A Lawyer Who Remains Current As The Laws Are Changing
The laws governing blood, breath, and urine testing are in constant flux. The U.S. Supreme Court and the Minnesota Supreme Court are currently debating whether blood and urine tests by law enforcement officers require a warrant. Due to ongoing cases like these, please contact me to discuss your legal rights. At Ambrose law firm, I work diligently to stay abreast of this rapidly evolving aspect of DWI law.
Free Consultation Available
Start Your Defense As Quickly As Possible Remember that you can request to speak with an attorney before submitting to a DWI breath or chemical test in order to fully understand and protect your rights, so contact Ambrose Law. You can also count on us to defend you against DUI and DWI charges if you fail a breath or chemical test.