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Attention, drivers: A PAS device is NOT a DWI Breathalyzer

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | DWI |

In Minnesota and throughout the country, police officers must establish probable cause to make a drunk driving arrest. They must also have a legitimate reason for making a traffic stop. For example, if a police officer witnesses your vehicle swerving in and out of its lane, this constitutes reasonable cause for a traffic stop. If you take and fail a breath test during the stop, it establishes probable cause for a suspected DWI arrest.

What you may not know is that the roadside breath testing device, also known as a “preliminary alcohol screening” (PAS) device, is not the same as a chemical Breathalyzer device. The latter typically follows a DWI arrest, while the former occurs during a traffic stop. Failing either test spells legal problems; however, you are under no obligation to take a PAS test.

PAS versus Breathalyzer, regarding DWI implied consent rules

If an officer arrests you for suspected DWI in Minnesota, you are subject to the laws of this state, even if you obtained your driver’s license in another state. Implied consent laws in this state require driver’s license suspension for refusing to take a Breathalyzer or other chemical test upon request following a DWI arrest. However, you are free to decline a request to take a PAS test during a traffic stop. There are no penalties for refusing.

The two breath test devices work in different ways

A PAS device detects the presence of alcohol on a person’s breath. It does not matter if your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is below the legal limit for driving, if you fail a PAS test during a traffic stop, the officer can take you into custody for suspected drunk driving. If you then pass the Breathalyzer test, you might be able to leave without facing criminal charges.

It’s important to understand that a PAS device cannot measure BAC in a person’s blood. That is what a Breathalyzer device does. It calculates the percentage of alcohol in your blood stream. If it is .08 or higher, you may not operate a motor vehicle in Minnesota.

Refusing a PAS test does not guarantee that you won’t face arrest

Now that you understand the difference between a PAS device and chemical Breathalyzer test, it is equally important to understand that refusing a PAS test does not necessarily mean you won’t be arrested for DWI. While there are no penalties for refusing a PAS test during a Minnesota traffic stop, the officer can establish probable cause in other ways and can make an arrest despite your PAS refusal. For example, if the officer sees an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, it constitutes probable cause for an arrest.

Remember that you do not have to navigate the criminal justice system alone. As soon as an officer detains you in a suspected DWI stop, you can request legal support.