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Can You Legally Refuse a Breath Test When Pulled Over For a DWI in Minnesota?

On Behalf of | Aug 27, 2018 | blogs

When it comes to being pulled over for a DWI in Minnesota, there is a wide variety of misinformation out there. Of course, we’re not talking about chewing gum or sucking on a penny to negate alcohol on your breath, but rather the legal rumor that you can refuse to take a breath test. The truth is that you both can and cannot legally refuse to take a breath test. What those concerned about being arrested for a DWI need to remember is the situation matters when it comes to your legal rights.

Field Sobriety Breath Test Versus Chemical Blood Alcohol Testing

It is crucial to remember that as a traffic stop turns into a DWI arrest, you may be asked to take a breath test twice. The first will be at the traffic stop and the second time may be after the arrest has been made. This is where much of the misinformation comes from on the topic.

At the traffic stop, the officer may ask you to have a blow on the portable breathalyzer machine or do a series of field sobriety tests on the side of the road that make you look silly to gauge your sobriety. You have the legal right to decline to do any field sobriety test. If you believe you may be over the legal limit, it can significantly help your case to decline to do them, including blowing on the portable breathalyzer.

However, if you decline, you will be arrested and taken to the station and asked to do chemical blood alcohol testing. This can include blood and urine testing or blowing on the station’s more accurate breathalyzer machine. Under recently case law, law enforcement needs a warrant, or an exception to the warrant requirement, to obtain a urine or blood test. However, refusing to submit to this breath test is a crime under the implied consent law that can enhance your punishments for a DWI.

If Refusing a Field Sobriety Test Leads to Arrest, Why Refuse?

For many drivers pulled over for a suspicion of driving while intoxicated, an arrest seems like the worst case scenario. However, it is important to remember that it will be a conviction that affects your life and your record, not the arrest. With that piece of information in mind, it is key to understanding why you need to decline field sobriety tests.

The issue with field sobriety tests, including the portable breathalyzer, is that they are not accurate. Doing a walk and turn on the side of the road could mean you are intoxicated, or it could mean you just generally have bad balance. When it comes to the portable breathalyzer, often they are not calibrated as often as they should be and can offer skewed results.

Why is this a problem? If you are arrested and taken for chemical testing where they find you are under the legal limit, the results of your field sobriety test don’t matter, even if you failed. However, if you fail your field sobriety test and then test over the legal limit at the chemical testing, the fact that you failed the field sobriety test adds just one more piece of evidence that law enforcement can use to convict you on a DWI. This is why it is crucial that if you think you could even be close to the legal limit when pulled over that you decline field sobriety tests and opt for a chemical test instead.

Arrested for a DWI, What Now?

Your first step after an arrest for a DWI, even if it was just because you declined the field sobriety test, is to contact a lawyer. When trying to negate a DWI conviction, often acting early in your own defense is the key, and a lawyer can make sure that your potential case gets off to the best possible start. If you have been arrested for DWI in Minnesota, contact us today. We will come to your defense and make sure you don’t have to suffer the enhancing punishments that come with a Minnesota DWI.