Minnesota law requires you to take a blood, breath, or urine test if you are arrested for a DWI. Minnesota’s “implied consent” law says that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been driving or boating while intoxicated, then you consent to taking a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content (BAC). You also consent to these chemical tests – even if you have not been arrested – if you are involved in an accident where there is property damage, a serious injury, or death. The test must be taken within two hours of when you were last driving or boating. The officer gets to choose which test you take and may require you to take an additional test if he or she believes you have been taking drugs, too.
Additionally, Minnesota’s implied consent law says that you consent to taking a preliminary breath test. This works like a field sobriety test. The officer will use the results to establish probable cause that you were driving under the influence. You do not have to take this preliminary test, and the officer should say so. Refusing it, however, probably won’t work in your favor if the officer has some other reason to think you had been drinking. Based on that other reason, the officer could still arrest you and then you will be required to take a test under the law described in the paragraph above.
When officer requests a test, he or she has to tell you that Minnesota law requires you to take it and that refusing it is a crime. The officer must also inform you that you have a right to speak to an attorney, but only for a reasonable amount of time. You can’t chat with your lawyer for hours because it delays the test, but 25 minutes or so should be allowed. (To read more about this right, see the case Nelson v. Commissioner of Public Safety 779 N.W.2d 571 (2010).)
You can find Minnesota’s implied consent law at the Minnesota Statutes 169A.51.
Refusing to Take the Test
In Minnesota, the penalty for refusing to take a test is the suspension of your license for at least one year. The length of the suspension depends on whether you have had any prior convictions for DWI. If you have had no prior DWI convictions, then the suspension is for one year. If you have had prior DWI convictions, then add a year on to your suspension for every one of your convictions. For example, if this is your first refusal (one year) but you’ve had two prior DWIs (two years), then the length of your suspension will be three years.
Generally, the state can’t force you to take a test once you refuse to do so. There are some exceptions, however. If you were in an accident where someone was seriously injured or killed, then you do not have a right to refuse. Also, if you are unconscious or killed, then the law allows for a test to be taken without asking you first.
To read more about the penalties for refusing a test, see the Minnesota Statutes 169.52.
Should You Refuse to Take a Mandatory DWI Test in Minnesota?
It usually does not help you to refuse to take a blood, breath, or urine test when you are arrested for a DWI. In Minnesota, there is no mandatory penalty for your first DWI. That means that a court could go easy on you. By the same token, the court could also send you to jail. You will need to weigh that risk against the known consequence – suspension of your license – for refusing a test. Still, refusing the test does not guarantee that you won’t be convicted – you could be found guilty of a DWI even if your refusal means that the state does not have proof that your BAC was over.08%, the legal limit for those over 21. In fact, the prosecution can use your refusal against you by arguing that you refused the test because you knew that you were intoxicated and guilty of DWI.
Get Help With Your DWI
If you have been arrested on a DWI charge in Minnesota or any other state, get help from an experienced DWI attorney. Unlike other traffic related charges, which might be worth fighting without a lawyer, conviction for a DWI has serious consequences – especially if the incident involved injury to people or property, or if it’s your second or subsequent DWI. To avoid or reduce the consequences, your best bet is to find an attorney who is knowledgeable about your state’s laws and about how the system works in your county’s court.