If a Minnesota police officer pulls you over in a traffic stop, it’s critical that you know your rights. It’s also important to understand the implications that anything you say or do might have on the ultimate outcome of your circumstances, especially if you wind up facing criminal charges in court.
For instance, if a police officer suspects you of DWI, he or she might ask you to take a preliminary alcohol screening or field sobriety test. If the officer ultimately arrests you, you may have to take a Breathalyzer test at the station. Do you know your rights regarding these types of tests and what the potential consequences for refusing to comply might be?
Implied Consent laws apply in Minnesota
When you obtained your Minnesota driver’s license, you agreed to take a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content level if you were ever to be taken into police custody for a suspected DWI. Legally, this agreement is the “Implied Consent” law.
If you refuse to take a chemical test of your blood, urine or breath after being arrested for a suspected DWI in this state, you’re at risk for an automatic license revocation for a minimum of one year. It’s important to understand, however, that a post-arrest chemical test at the station is different than a preliminary alcohol screening on the roadside, during a traffic stop.
You are not obligated to take a roadside breath test
If a police officer pulls you over and asks you to step out of your vehicle, it’s likely that he or she suspects you of drunk driving. Police cannot arrest you without probable cause. To determine whether such cause exists, a police officer might ask you to take a preliminary breath test (PBT) or other field sobriety tests. If you fail any or all such tests, it could constitute probable cause for a DWI arrest.
These tests are not directly relevant to the Implied Consent laws. In fact, there are no legal or administrative penalties for refusing to take a roadside breath test or field sobriety test. The police cannot arrest you solely for refusing field sobriety tests, nor can you lose your license. However, if you wind up facing DWI charges in court, prosecutors may use your non-compliance against you by informing the court that you refused to take preliminary alcohol screening tests.
Know your rights and how to defend them in court
It’s your choice whether or not to take a roadside breath test or other field sobriety tests. It’s also your choice whether to take a chemical test at the station after police have arrested you for a suspected DWI; just remember that Implied Consent rules will apply if you refuse and you will be subject to criminal charges. Depending on your circumstances, a DWI arrest can have immediate and far-reaching implications in your personal life, as well as your career.
If you did not consume alcohol before driving but were arrested for suspected DWI (possibly because of a false positive breath test) it’s always best to remain calm and to cooperate with the arresting officer as best as you can. Things might get worse before they get better. Most defendants seek legal support to help mitigate their circumstances.