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DWI Test Refusal: A Common Mistake

Minnesota’s DUI laws are complex, which can lead an uninformed person to destroy any chance of a good defense before they’ve had a chance to talk to an attorney.  One of the biggest pitfalls someone can find themselves in is refusing a DWI test and unknowingly handing an easy conviction to the prosecutor.

What is the crime of DWI Test Refusal?

DWI Test Refusal is very similar to a regular DWI.  However, the crime the person commits is not driving while intoxicated — it is refusing a DWI test when the police officer has probable cause to believe a person was driving while intoxicated.  The difference may sound minor, but it can lead to some very big consequences apart from a regular DWI.  Under Minnesota law, a police officer can require someone to submit to a DWI test if the officer has a reason to believe the person was drunk driving.  This is Minnesota’s implied consent law — by using Minnesota’s roads you consent to submit to a DWI test if an officer has probable cause.  Refusing to take the test is a crime, which is often more severe than a regular DWI if you had taken the test.

Why is a DWI Test Refusal worse than a DWI?

Initially, DWI Test Refusal was a more lenient charge than a DWI in some circumstances.  However, offenders started refusing tests to receive lower consequences than if they had taken the test.  So, Minnesota changed the DWI Test Refusal law to make it equal to the most severe DWI you can receive under the circumstances — now, there is no incentive to refuse the test.

Why do people refuse the DWI test?

A person often refuses a DWI test because they are confused about their situation.  Generally, a person should not talk with the police and refuse the police’s requests for searches in order to protect their rights.  However, refusing a DWI test has the exact opposite effect — it imposes severe criminal liability.  The police officer reads a warning, but it only states that DWI Test Refusal is a crime.  It says nothing about how you’re basically handing the police an aggravated DWI.

What can you do to avoid a DWI Test Refusal charge?

The police can require a DWI test only if they have probable cause that you are drinking and driving.  So, the best way to avoid a charge is to prevent creating probable cause.  Take a taxi or use a designated driver if you are intoxicated.  Otherwise, it is generally helpful to not give any statements to the police, but if you are brought to the station or jail, you can choose to take a DWI test (of couse the test may still get you in trouble).  By taking the test, you can often preserve defenses and avoid enhancement.  However, each situation is different, so the best thing you can do is call an attorney immediately if you are stopped for a DWI.

I’ll discuss more about DWI Test Refusal in future posts, but you can save yourself trouble by learning the basics.  A number of my clients start at a disadvantage because they refused a DWI test without fully understanding the consequences.

If you find yourself charged with a DWI, contact St. Paul DWI lawyer Eric Rice.  You can set up a free consultation by calling (651) 998-9660 or emailing