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Minnesota DWI Test Refusal Defense

Last updated on January 17, 2023

If you have spent even a little time either watching crime dramas on television or going to the multiplex to watch feature length films of the same genre, you have at least a basic understanding that you have certain constitutional rights when it comes to being charged with a crime.

One of the most significant and long-standing of these rights is one that protects you from self-incrimination. In other words, you cannot be made to confess or admit guilt to any crime that you are alleged to have committed. This includes a situation in which you have been pulled over by the police based upon their observation that you might be driving while intoxicated. However, this does not mean that you can refuse to take a sobriety test or alcohol concentration test and not suffer consequences.

Minnesota is one of only a handful of states that makes it a crime to refuse to submit to an official blood, breath or urine test after being arrested on suspicion of DWI / DUI. While that basic idea sounds simple, there are many misconceptions about how the crime is committed, what the penalties are, and whether it is ever better to refuse a test in Minnesota. It has gotten confusing enough that many attorneys, prosecutors, judges, and police officers do not fully understand the entirety of Minnesota’s test refusal law.

Understanding Sobriety Tests And Your Rights

Although we can only provide you limited information through the materials on our website, it is important that you do understand that if you are pulled over by the police under suspicion of driving while intoxicated, you have given your implied consent to submit to certain sobriety tests when you are issued a driver’s license. While you can withdraw that consent, as a consequence of doing so, you will usually give an officer the legal right to arrest you on suspicion of DWI and take you to the police station or jail for official alcohol concentration testing. If you also refuse to submit to the official alcohol concentration test by breath, blood or urine, you will be subject to a license revocation for one year.

Historically, the best evidence that you were operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence would be the result of a breath, blood or urine test. However, with that said, by refusing these tests, you will face a more serious crime of test refusal, or you could still be prosecuted for DWI or DUI without an official test record. Other types of evidence that can be used against you in these cases include the testimony of any police officer involved in pulling your automobile over in the first instance.

You do need to understand that you are entitled to consult with an attorney before you undertake any of the official alcohol concentration tests that have been discussed in this section of our website. Indeed, prior to being administered a breath, blood or urine test, a person suspected of DWI has to be read what is known as the Implied Consent Advisory (“ICA”). This advisory sets forth that a driver has given consent to the testing by obtaining a driver’s license (the testing is mandatory in that sense), test refusal is a crime, and that a driver has the right within reason to consult with an attorney prior to taking the test. Learn more about implied consent.

When Is It Better to Refuse a Blood, Breath or Urine Test offered at the Police Station?

The first concept to understand is the definition of the test refusal crime itself. It is important to understand that the test refusal crime has nothing to do with refusing a preliminary breath test (PBT) before being arrested. It is NOT a crime to refuse the PBT, nor does refusal of the PBT come with any license/license plate consequences. The crime of test refusal only applies to the refusal to submit to a breath test offered at the station/jail after being arrested and being read the Minnesota Implied Consent Advisory, or if you refuse to submit to a blood or urine test after an officer gets a search warrant.

It is also important to understand the severity of the test refusal crime. In Minnesota, a typical first time DWI crime starts out as a misdemeanor (maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine). A DWI can become a gross misdemeanor (maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and a $3,000 fine) or a felony (maximum penalty of 7 years in prison and a $14,000 fine) if there are “aggravating factors” present such as passengers in the vehicle under the age of 16, qualified prior impaired driving offenses (convictions or license revocations) within ten years, or having an alcohol level of .16 or more on the official blood, breath or urine test (not the PBT). By contrast, a test refusal crime starts out as a gross misdemeanor and can become even more serious if the person has passengers in the vehicle under the age of 16 or has qualified prior impaired driving offenses within the past ten years.

Because the crime of test refusal always starts as a gross misdemeanor, most of the time a person is better off taking the official breath, blood or urine test instead of refusing it. This is especially true for someone who has none of the aggravating factors mentioned above. Most people (even people who work in this field) hear this and automatically assume it is ALWAYS better to take the test in Minnesota. That was certainly the goal of the Minnesota Legislature when they amended the test refusal crime years ago to change it from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor. However, for FIRST time offenders who would likely test at or over .16 on the official test, the consequences are much better for refusing the test once you consider the other related penalties.

For FIRST time offenders who test at .16 or more on the official blood, breath or urine test, the driving privilege penalties are much worse than the penalties for refusing the test, even though both would be a gross misdemeanor crime. Examine this summary of driving penalties for each scenario:

First time offender testing at .16 or more on the official blood, breath or urine test:

  1. License revocation for one year with NO opportunity to reduce the length of the revocation period.
  2. Only option for driving during the revocation period is on the ignition interlock program (costs between $80-130 per month after initial installation fee of $150-200).
  3. Must have special registration plates (whiskey plates) for one year on all vehicles registered (solely or jointly) in the offender’s name plus the vehicle used during the commission of the DWI / DUI.

First time offender refusing to submit to the official blood, breath or urine test:

  1. License revocation for one year with automatic reduction down to 90 or 30 days depending on how the criminal case is resolved.
  2. May drive with a regular limited license (work permit) during the revocation period, but also has the option to do the ignition interlock program for more freedom to drive any time.
  3. No license plate penalties at all (no whiskey plates).

All three of those penalties are drastically different and lean heavily in favor of refusing a test versus testing at or over .16 for FIRST time offenders.

Keep in mind that it is ALWAYS better to take the official test if the driver is certain they will test under .16. This analysis ONLY applies to FIRST time offenders (and people with exactly ONE qualified prior offense outside ten years) who have a chance of testing at .16 or more.

There are a few other scenarios that can change the default analysis above, which is why it is always best to exercise your right to contact an experienced 24-hour DWI / DUI defense attorney like The DWI Guys if you get arrested.

Obtaining Powerful Representation In A Test Refusal Case: Selecting A Minnesota DWI Lawyer

It is important to note that the materials that are presented for your consideration on the pages of this website are for informational purposes only. If you have specific questions about your case or require legal representation in regard to a driving while intoxicated case – including a case involving test refusal – you need to contact a qualified and experienced Minnesota DWI attorney. The attorneys at our firm stand ready, willing and able to assist you in regard to DWI or related charges.

You need to have a Minnesota DWI lawyer with a demonstrated track record in representing clients in every possible scenario of DWI and test refusal. Again, you can access such powerful professional legal representation through the attorneys at Meaney & Patrin.

We are available to meet with you at your convenience to discuss your case and the charges you are facing. Please call our offices at 612-688-2299. We will be happy to provide you with an initial consultation at no charge.