Is It a Crime to Refuse DWI Testing in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, a DWI charge can result in the the revocation of a driver’s license, thousands of dollars in fines, and extended jail time. With complex state laws in place, a DWI charge requires the legal advice of a DWI attorney St. Paul who knows the specifics of DWI laws in Minnesota. According to state laws, certain rules and regulations must be followed by police officers during all DWI stops and arrests.

Minnesota Implied Consent Laws

One of the most controversial Minnesota laws involves DWI testing that determines the level of blood alcohol. When a driver is stopped for suspicion of driving while intoxicated, a field sobriety test or breath test is usually administered at the scene to determine blood alcohol levels. If levels are over the legal limit of .08, a driver over 21 can be arrested and charged with a DWI.

During a DWI stop, the police officer can choose which test is most appropriate, and testing must take place within two hours of the stop. The officer must inform the driver that Minnesota law requires him/her to take the test, and that refusing it is a crime. However, the officer must inform the driver of his/her rights to talk to a DWI attorney St. Paul before the tests are administered. In most DWI stops, 25 or 30 minutes is allowed to contact legal counsel.

According to Minnesota’s “implied consent” law, a driver who is stopped or arrested for a DWI offense automatically consents to a preliminary breath test to establish probable cause. A driver has the right to refuse the test until he/she has consulted an attorney, but this refusal often works against the driver who could still be arrested. When a driver is arrested for a DWI offense, Minnesota’s “implied consent” law requires the driver to take a blood, breath or urine test to determine blood alcohol levels. When a driver is involved in an accident that results in property damage, personal injuries or death, implied consent law requires the driver to consent to testing, even if he/she is not arrested. Minnesota’s implied consent law creates complicated situations for Minnesota drivers that requires legal advice from a DWI attorney St. Paul.

Refusing to Take the Tests

Because of Minnesota’s implied consent law, refusing to take a blood, breath or urine test after a DWI arrest is a crime. With a first DWI offense, there’s no mandatory penalty, but a driver can still be found guilty of a DWI without any type of blood alcohol testing.  If convicted, the court can issue a lighter penalty of a suspended license or a harsh penalty of jail time. Refusing to take a test does not guarantee that a driver won’t be convicted of a DWI in court. The prosecution can use a test refusal against a driver by arguing that he/she refused the test because of known intoxication and guilt of the DWI offense. A DWI attorney St. Paul can build a strong legal DWI defense to protect a driver’s rights in court.

In Minnesota, the penalty for refusing to take a test is a driver’s license suspension for at least one year. The length of the suspension depends on prior DWI convictions. If a driver has prior convictions, one year of suspension is added for each prior conviction. For example, with two prior DWI convictions, two years is added to the one year suspension, resulting in a three year license suspension. According to law, Minnesota can’t force a driver to take a test, but refusal often comes with consequences. There are exceptions to this law. If a driver is involved in an accident where someone is seriously injured or killed, or if the driver is unconscious, Minnesota law allows testing without consent.

Supreme Court Review

The constitutionality of Minnesota’s implied consent law is currently under review by the United States Supreme Court. The court will consider whether, in the absence of a warrant, Minnesota or any state may make it a crime for someone to refuse to take a chemical test to detect the presence of alcohol in his/her blood. Minnesota is one of thirteen states thatcurrently makes it a crime to refuse a test for blood-alcohol content. The Supreme Court review will consider a driver’s violation of the Fourth Amendment when imposing criminal penalties for a test refusal without a warrant. The Supreme Court is not expected to rule on this issue until late 2016. In the meantime, Minnesota prosecutors will most likely continue to file charges and pursue penalties for test refusal, so a sound legal defense by a DWI attorney St. Paul is strongly advised to protect a driver’s rights in Minnesota courts.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Any mistake during the early stages of your interaction with the legal system can result in serious, lifelong consequences. Immediate access to a 24-hour lawyer for criminal defense in Minneapolis, MN, can help calm the situation and improve the likelihood of a desirable outcome.
The criminal defense process in Minnesota constitutes several steps, starting with investigations and culminating with appeals. This process can be long and exhausting. An arrest alone can leave you scared, confused, and overwhelmed with emotions. Making logical decisions in this state can be difficult, especially if it is your first time interacting with the criminal justice system.