DWI Test Refusal - Minnesota Laws

When someone is being investigated and ultimately arrested for a Minnesota DWI, the entire process can be overwhelming and confusing. Almost always, the person is asked numerous questions, requested to perform the field sobriety tests, requested to submit to a PBT, arrested and transported to a police station, and then read some rights (presumably) before being asked, again, to take a chemical test. It is not uncommon for the person to be so overwhelmed, confused, or otherwise to refuse the formal demand for a breath, urine, or blood test. When this happens, the person may face more serious criminal and collaterals consequences as a result of this DWI test refusal.

Testing Process for a DWI Test Refusal

It is important to understand at the outset that the DWI test refusal discussed in this blog pertains to the formal test being offered at the police station and not the test via the PBT on the side of the road. The latter can be refused without legal consequence – other than leading to an arrest. Once a person is arrested and brought back to the station, the officer invokes the implied consent law by requesting a formal breath, urine, or blood test. If the officer wishes to have a breath test via the DataMaster machine, he/she must read the Breath Test Advisory first and then ask for the person’s further consent to take the breath test. If the officer wishes to have a urine or blood test, he/she must obtain a search warrant first. The arrested person has the right to refuse any test, but must be advised that refusing it is a crime.

Criminal DWI Test Refusal Charges

A DWI test refusal charge is a gross misdemeanor, at a minimum – even for first-timers – because it is deemed an aggravating factor. It can range from 3rd Degree DWI to 1st Degree DWI depending on the number of aggravating factors present. As a gross misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is a year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. Statutory minimum sentencing depends on the number of priors, though, and not the number of aggravating factors present.

In addition to the other DWI defenses that exist for all DWI’s, a DWI Test Refusal requires the State to prove that the driver failed to completed the requested chemical test by verbal declination or conduct. While often it is rather straight-forward, some circumstances are ambiguous, such as when a person tries to submit to breath testing, but cannot blow in the machine long or strong enough in order for a reading to register. Or, alternatively, a person asking too many questions of the officer or otherwise delaying the testing process could be deemed to have refused when, in fact, it is not sufficient to be a refusal. 

Finally, it is imperative to understand that in order to successfully charge this offense, the implied consent law must be followed precisely. Meaning, the Breath Test Advisory must be read, certain rights advised of the driver, an opportunity to talk with an attorney provided, and being informed that refusing is a crime. While this is a simple task for the officer to follow, you’d be surprised how frequent these statutory requirements are not followed, leading to a possible defense.

Collateral DWI Test Refusal Consequences

The most immediate collateral consequences from a DWI test refusal is the license revocation. Even on first-time DWI’s, the revocation period starts at one-year. BUT, if the person ends up pleading guilty to the DWI refusal charge, the revocation gets reduced to 90 days. And if that person pleads guilty to a misdemeanor 4th degree DWI instead, the revocation becomes 30 days. This only happens if the person has no prior DWI’s ever. What’s fascinating is that this creates a weird situation where a person who knows they are blitzed could be better off refusing the formal test and then taking a plea to either charge. In that instance, the revocation period is either 90 or 30 days. Whereas, if the blitzed person tests above a .16, the revocation period is one-year no matter how the criminal case is resolved. In addition to losing driving privileges for various lengths of time depending on the circumstances, a DWI test refusal can result in plate impoundment and vehicle forfeiture. 

If you are facing DWI Test Refusal criminal charges, know that prosecutors tend to take these charges more serious than a standard DWI. They often view a Defendant being charged with a refusal as being non-compliant and someone who flaunts the law. This makes getting an experienced and strategic DWI attorney on board critical to ensure you get the proper defense and fight for your future.