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What happens if I refuse a breath test?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2019 | DWI |

There are few feelings worse than noticing police lights in your rearview mirror following a night of drinking. It is not a secret that driving while intoxicated carries some of the harshest penalties in the United States. Being found guilty of drinking and driving can have negative consequences on both your personal and professional life. These factors beg the question of what you should do if the officer requests that you submit to a breath test.

The natural thought is to refuse the test. This will allow you to avoid providing the arresting officer with more evidence that you have been drinking. Furthermore, you are well within your rights to make this decision. It sounds like the perfect plan for escaping significant ramifications. However, there are consequences for this course of action as well.

Implied consent

It is ultimately your decision whether to submit to a breath test. Refusal can be the best course of action under some circumstances, but it is important to understand Minnesota’s implied consent law before going down this path. Implied consent refers to your unspoken agreement to submit to a chemical test to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs by merely driving a motor vehicle on Minnesota roads.

This essentially means that you can still receive punishment for deciding to forgo a breath test at the request of a police officer. The goal is to put the driver in a position where he or she must choose between submitting to the request or enduring the consequences of a refusal.

Severe penalties

You are certainly not free to leave if you decide to refuse a breath test. In fact, choosing to refuse a breath test will ultimately result in a more severe punishment under most circumstances. This creates an incentive to agree to the test even if the driver believes he or she will blow above the legal limit.

If you are found to be legally intoxicated after submitting to a breath test, the standard punishment for a first-time offender is a fourth-degree DWI. This is a misdemeanor charge that is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and the loss of driving privileges for 90 days.

Electing to refuse a breath test could result in this charge being bumped up to a third-degree DWI, which inherently carries more severe penalties. This is a gross misdemeanor charge carrying penalties of up to one year in jail, a $3,000 fine and the loss of driving privileges for one year.