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There’s Nothing “Implied” About the Implied Consent Law & DWI

What Did I Agree To ?  Minnesota’s Implied Consent Law & DWI

Minnesota is one of many states which have an implied consent law.  If you are ever pulled over by a police officer who suspects you might be driving under the influence, the officer may ask you if you are willing to take a breath test.  This is not necessarily just the “request” that it sounds like.  Minnesota’s implied consent law provides that it is a crime to refuse to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine.  The idea behind the law is that by driving your vehicle within the test, you give consent to such tests.

Probable cause

That doesn’t mean that Minnesota police officers have unlimited authority to walk up to you and require a blood test, though.  The officer must have probable cause to believe that you were driving, operating, or in physical control of your vehicle while impaired.  “Impaired” can include being under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, or having a blood alcohol concentration higher than the legal limit.  If the officer does not have probable cause, refusing the test is not a crime.

What exactly is probable cause?  It’s facts and circumstances known to the police officer that would warrant a prudent person to think that you were driving, operating, or in control of the vehicle while impaired.  A police officer’s training can come into b determination; for example, if the officer has learned that drivers who swerve over the center line multiple times are likely to be impaired, that knowledge could be used to support the officer’s argument that he had probable cause.  It’s important to note that probable cause is not based on the officer’s subjective beliefs—a mere gut feeling by the officer won’t cut it.  Finally, probable cause is a fairly high standard; it is not just that it is more likely than not that the driver was operating the vehicle while impaired but rather that a reasonable person would have an “honest and strong suspicion” of impairment and not based on “mere whim, caprice, or idle curiously.”

Other requirements

In addition to probable cause, a test is only mandatory if one of the following conditions exist:

-the officer arrests you for a DWI violation; or

-you have been involved in a crash and there was an injury; or

-you have refused to take the DWI screening test (AKA the PBT or breathalyzer); or

-you took the screening test and it showed a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more.

Apart from these circumstances, a test can also be required of a person when an officer has probable cause to believe the person was driving, operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle with the presence of any alcohol.

Additionally, before the officer can administer a chemical test based on the implied consent law, he must read you the implied consent advisory statement.  This statement must inform you that state law provides that test refusal is a crime and that you have a right to consult an attorney before taking the test.  If the officer fails to read you this statement, you can still be criminally charged, but administrative penalties for test refusal cannot be imposed.

Penalties

If all the requirements for making the test mandatory exist but you refuse to submit to the test, your driving privileges can be immediately revoked for a year.  Keep in mind that test refusal can actually result in a longer period of license revocation than for the actual impaired driving offense.  There are also criminal penalties, including potential jail time, since refusal to take the test is considered a gross misdemeanor offense.

If you have questions please call a good Minnesota DWI/DUI lawyer.    If you have any comments or question please let me know.  Thanks for reading.

Kohlmeyer Hagen, Law Office
Mankato, Minnesota
507-625-5000

P.S. The picture here is a stock photo of an old time DWI test, they don’t actually approve the use of the “touch your nose” test anymore in Minnesota for field sobriety tests.