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Can I decline to take a DUI breath test?

by | Apr 13, 2021 | DUI/DWI

Getting pulled over by the police on suspicion of drinking and driving can be scary. You have the police officer leaning into your window, the lights from their squad car flashing into your vehicle, asking if you have had anything to drink tonight. Depending on how this encounter goes, you could be spending the night in jail.

At some point, the officer tells you to blow into their breath test device. As you know, the device is intended to detect if your body is over the legal limit for blood-alcohol content (BAC). If you fail, you will likely be arrested on suspicion of DUI. Do you have to comply? What happens if you refuse?

Implied consent and DUI breath tests

Like in most states, when someone drives in Minnesota, the law states that they consent to chemical DUI tests at a police officer’s direction. This is known as “implied consent” because you agree to this by driving in the state, not by reaching an explicit agreement. Refusing to submit to a chemical test of your breath, blood or urine can lead to civil penalties like a driver’s license suspension or enhance the penalties if you are later convicted of DUI.

But this does not apply to breath tests that officers administer during a traffic stop, which is known as the preliminary breath test (PBT). This test is one of the ways that officers try to establish probable cause for arrest. The implied consent law does not cover this test and it is not against the law to decline to take the PBT. But doing so will not necessarily mean you will go free. The refusal can itself justify an arrest if the officer has probable cause of DUI based on other factors.

What to do about DUI charges

If you are arrested for DUI, an experienced defense attorney can help you fight to get your license back as soon as possible and confront the criminal charges.