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Can you refuse a breath test during a DWI traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2021 | Criminal Defense, DWI |

You probably know that police officers who pull you over because they suspect that you are driving while intoxicated (DWI) hope to build a case against you. The officers will talk to you and try to gather evidence so that they can arrest you and then prosecutors can charge you with a criminal offense.

As someone interacting with law enforcement, you likely strongly hope to end the interaction without an arrest. Trying to avoid giving law enforcement evidence that can implicate you is a common instinct. You might think that refusing a breath test is the quickest way to avoid an arrest during a traffic stop.

However, the very act of refusing might lead to your immediate arrest.

Under Missouri law, all drivers have given implied consent to testing

The goal of transportation law is to protect the public from the danger involved in traveling via motor vehicles. Alcohol and drug impairment continue to be major contributing factors to serious crashes, so law enforcement officers have a vested interest in limiting how many people get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

Implied consent laws give police officers authority to chemically test those driving on Missouri roads. A condition of operating a vehicle within the state is agreeing to permit testing if officers have probable cause to request it. You can face arrest and other penalties if you refuse a test during a traffic stop.

What are the consequences of refusing a breath test?

While officers can’t force you to take a breath test, they can arrest you for refusing to take one. If you refuse a breath test, the officer conducting the traffic stop could take your license right then. Unless you take action, you will face a one-year loss of your license after an implied consent violation.

If you refuse a test a second time or have already had a DWI arrest in the past, you could also have to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle when you do get your license back. You do have the right to call a lawyer to ask for advice, but there is only a 20-minute window for this right under current Missouri law.

The good news is that it is possible to fight implied consent violation charges just like you can fight DWI charges. Anyone facing the loss of their license could benefit from exploring their defense options.