man holding a bottle of liquor while inside a car

What Happens If You Refuse a Preliminary Breath Test in Minnesota?

Many motorists who get stopped by police on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI) often ask, “what happens if you refuse a preliminary breath test in Minnesota?” Refusing to take a preliminary breath test (PBT) before getting arrested is not a crime. The PBT test refusal does not also carry any potential consequences on your driver’s license or license plate.

man holding a bottle of liquor while inside a car

Refusing to take a breath test administered at the station/jail after the arresting officer reads the Implied Consent Advisory (ICA) is, however, a crime. It is also a crime to refuse a blood or urine test after a police officer obtains a search warrant. It is important to note that you have a right to speak with an attorney before submitting to any official urine, blood, or breath test. 

Can You Refuse a Sobriety Test in Minnesota?

Yes, you can refuse to submit to a roadside sobriety test in Minnesota. The odds of passing these tests are usually not in favor of most motorists, as they are an entirely new experience. Your performance on balance tests like standing on one leg or walking and turning will help the arresting officers decide if they have a reasonable cause for an arrest. Most people cannot perform these tests effectively even when sober. So, they are likelier to fail in a scenario where they are facing a potential arrest. 

Generally, you will still have to take a breath test even after performing the balance tests effectively. The portable PBT devices are usually inaccurate. They can record the alcohol level in your system as above the legal limit when it is not. 

You have a legal right to refuse these field sobriety tests. Doing that could be helpful to your DWI case. Remember, submitting to these tests allows the police to collect more evidence to pull off a conviction. The police officer, however, has a right to arrest you after refusing a roadside sobriety test. 

Getting arrested is usually a nerve-wracking and scary event for most people. Try your level best to cooperate with the arresting officer. Cooperating during the arrest does not involve answering questions or providing self-implicating information. Instead, it involves remaining calm and avoiding acting aggressively toward the officer. 

The police will ask you to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test once you are in custody. At this point, it’s illegal to refuse to take the test. You still have the right to consult a DWI defense lawyer before submitting to the test. 

The police officers may release you if the results show you were driving under the influence of alcohol or an intoxicant but under the legal limit. Refusing the roadside test and getting arrested may be a wise decision if you think you have surpassed the legal limit. It may buy you more time for the alcohol or intoxicant to get out of the system. 

DWI lawyers know the long-term consequences that a DWI conviction can have on your life and the people you love. These lawyers can advise you on all available legal options and the best step to take after failing a sobriety test at the field or police station/hospital. They can also get you a successful outcome by aggressively fighting your charges. 

What Happens If You Refuse a Preliminary Breath Test in Minnesota?

Minnesota law does not require you to submit to field sobriety tests, including the field preliminary breath test (PBT). You have the right to decline to undertake these field tests. These tests are usually designed to help the officer to establish a reasonable cause to arrest you. They also help the officer collect more information to support his or her case against you. 

Do not help the police gather evidence to convict you. Instead, refuse the test. You will probably get arrested for doing so. An arrest is better than a conviction because it does not affect your criminal record. 

Requirements for chemical testing happening at a police station or medical facility are completely different from those of field or roadside sobriety tests. Under Minnesota law, you must take an implied consent breath test administered at the police station. You must also take a blood or urine test at the hospital if a breath test is not administered at the station. Refusing an implied consent sobriety test is a crime. 

When is Refusing a Sobriety Test Administered at the Police Station a Wise Decision? 

Start by familiarizing yourself with what a test refusal crime entails before deciding whether to refuse or accept a sobriety test. It’s not a crime to refuse a PBT after getting pulled over by an officer. It is, however, a crime to refuse a breath test administered at the station after getting arrested, and the Minnesota ICA has been read to you. Also, refusing a blood or urine test is a crime after a law enforcement officer obtains a search warrant. 

Acquaint yourself with the seriousness of the chemical test refusal offense. A first-time DWI is a misdemeanor in Minnesota. The offense can turn into a gross misdemeanor or felony if aggravating factors exist.

These aggravating factors include recording an alcohol level of .16 or more on the test administered at the station or hospital, or having a prior DWI conviction within the past ten years. Having passengers under 16 years in the vehicle at the time of the arrest is also an aggravating factor. 

A test refusal offense is a gross misdemeanor in Minnesota. The offense can get more severe if aggravating factors apply to your case. Having a passenger under 16 years in the vehicle and a prior conviction for a similar offense within the last 10 years are some examples of aggravating factors. 

Since refusing a breathalyzer in Minnesota is a gross misdemeanor, it is generally advisable to submit to the official sobriety test at the station or hospital rather than refusing it. Taking the test makes even more sense when no aggravating circumstances exist in your case. 

Refusing the test is sometimes the best decision. A perfect example is when you are a first-time offender and suspect you might test .16 or more on the breathalyzer or chemical test. In this situation, the penalties for refusing to take the test are less severe than those for taking it. 

Penalties for a First-time Offender Testing at or above .16 on the Official Test 

Testing at or above .16 as a first-time offender will result in a one-year license revocation. You will not get any chance to shorten the revocation duration. You will need to participate in an Ignition Interlock Device Program (IIDP) to continue driving. 

The program costs anywhere from $80 to $130 per month. There is also a one-time fee of between $150 and $200 for the device installation. You must use special license plates (whiskey plates) for 12 months on all vehicles you own, and the vehicle involved in the DWI or DUI incident. 

Penalties for a First-time Offender Refusing to Take the Official Sobriety Test 

Refusing to take the official urine, blood, or breath test as a first-time offender leads to a one-year license revocation. The revocation period can get reduced to 90 or 30 days based on the outcome of your case. 

You may continue driving with a restricted license, such as a work permit, throughout the revocation period. You may also participate in an ignition interlock program to enjoy more driving privileges. No requirement to use whiskey plates on your vehicle(s). 

As you can see, the penalties for first-time offender testing at or above .16 on the official test are harsher than the offender refusing the test. You should submit to the test if you are sure you will test below .16. 

Note that the decision to take or refuse the official test will depend on your unique situation. So, getting a DWI defense lawyer involved soon after you get arrested is a wise decision. The lawyer will look at the specific details of the DWI incident and guide you on the best course of action. 

Common Defenses Against DUI Charges

A DUI conviction can lead to life-changing consequences, including prison time, fines, and temporary or permanent driver’s license loss. What’s more, a DWI stays on your record forever in Minnesota. You can avoid these lifelong consequences by raising a strong and effective defense against your DUI charges. The most common defenses against DUI charges include: 

Erratic Driving Does Not Amount to DUI 

This defense involves arguing that you were just driving unevenly or badly, but not under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or intoxicants. Prosecutors concentrate on your driving pattern when prosecuting a DUI case. They usually bring in the arresting officer to testify that your driving pattern was similar to that of a person impaired by alcohol or drugs. The officer might claim that you were zigzagging across the road or braking erratically. 

A knowledgeable DUI lawyer can challenge this testimony by asking the arresting officer to mention all the instances that you drove correctly and safely. The lawyer will also cite studies and reports that show that sober people commit a large percentage of traffic violations, and driving pattern is not a credible indicator of DUI. 

Questioning the Reliability of Chemical Test Results 

Minnesota DWI/DUI laws prohibit driving or operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08. Prosecutors usually use chemical test results to prove the impairment part of a DUI charge. 

Your lawyer can argue that the results were unreliable due to procedural mistakes in the chemical test administration. The lawyer can, for instance, claim that the police officer failed to observe you for at least 15 minutes before administering a breath test.

Improperly maintained or calibrated breathalyzers and improperly preserved blood samples are other ways lawyers challenge the accuracy of chemical test results. Defenses involving chemical test results might need an expert witness to illustrate why the prosecution’s test results are unreliable or inaccurate. 

Questioning the Reliability of Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

Prosecutors regularly use FSTs during a DUI case. They usually call the arresting officer to the stand to testify that you failed these tests. They then argue that you were guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or intoxicants. 

Your lawyer will challenge the reliability of FST results by identifying the procedural mistakes the officer might have committed during the administration of tests. The lawyer can, for instance, present evidence to show that you performed the FST on a sloped surface rather than a flat one. The lawyer can also explain the impact of your natural motor coordination, flat feet, clothing, and fatigue on your balance and coordination when performing FSTs.

Questioning the Officer’s Testimony Regarding Intoxication Signs 

The prosecution team often depends on the arresting officer’s observations to prove a DUI on the grounds of actual impairment. The officer might testify that you performed poorly on FST and had a strong alcohol smell, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and strange behavior. He or she might also claim that you were driving recklessly. 

Your lawyer might need to question the reliability of the officer’s observations to win the case. This might involve calling witnesses who may have a different account of what happened to testify in your favor. It might also involve giving an alternative explanation for your appearance and conduct. The smell of alcohol, for instance, can stem from a non-alcoholic beer. Bloodshot eyes can result from exposure to allergies. 

Unlawful Traffic Stop

A police officer must have a justifiable reason to stop your vehicle. An example of a valid reason for a traffic stop is you or a passenger in your motor vehicle violating a law. Your lawyer could bring a motion to suppress evidence if the arresting officer had no legitimate reason to stop you. Note that the reasonable cause rule does not apply to DUI/DWI roadblocks and checkpoints. 

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

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