Refusing a Breathalyzer /Blood Test in Missouri

Refusing a Breathalyzer

Under Missouri’s Implied Consent law, drivers operating motor vehicles on public highways in Missouri are obligated to submit to breathalyzer/blood tests whenever pulled over for suspected drunk driving. Typically, the breathalyzer/blood tests are part of a drunk driving investigation meant to determine a driver’s blood alcohol concentration. Refusing to take chemical tests as provided in sections 577.019 to 577.041 of Missouri legal statutes may lead to automatic suspension of a driver’s license.


Preliminary Alcohol Screening vs Implied Consent Test

As part of their alcohol investigation, officers may ask drivers to blow into a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) device. This is simply part of the field sobriety tests, and drivers can refuse this test without risking their license. If the officer arrests the driver for Driving While Intoxicated, they will ask the driver to submit to another chemical test. If drivers refuse this test, they risk their license. Ideally, the officer will read the driver Missouri’s Implied Consent Admonishment, a bit of information similar to Miranda Rights, before asking for this chemical test. However, officers have been known to forget the admonishment, making the distinction less obvious.

Do drivers get an attorney?

Drivers have a right to contact an attorney before deciding whether to take a chemical test. This process is somewhat confusing, however, and different than the criminal right to an attorney. Once a driver has been arrested for DWI and read the Implied Consent Admonishment, they have twenty minutes to contact an attorney, BUT ONLY IF THEY ASK. Drivers should always ask for an attorney, both to get advice on how to proceed and create an opportunity to fight any possible suspension (see below).

Should drivers refuse?

Drivers often wonder if they should refuse a chemical test. The answer is complicated. There are many negative consequences to refusal, discussed below. Additionally, if the driver knows they are sober, refusing a chemical test forfeits a chance to prove their innocence. However, many factors can cause false-positives on chemical tests, possibly making drivers seem intoxicated even when they are innocent. There is no one right answer; if at all possible, drivers should contact an attorney to help them decide.

Consequences of refusing a breathalyzer/blood test in Missouri
License revocation – Under Missouri laws, refusing a lawful request by an officer to take a breath or blood test will lead to a one-year revocation of driving privileges. The arresting officer will immediately take away your license and provide you with a Notice of Revocation. The revocation will go into effect after 15 days unless otherwise stated by the Circuit Court. You have 30 days to challenge the revocation.
A driver who’s been cited for refusing to take a breathalyzer or blood test in Missouri may file a petition for review at the Circuit or Associate Circuit Court where he or she was given the notification. The defendant has 30 days from the date the notice of revocation is issued to request a hearing. If one does not request a hearing within the 30 days, or if the court upholds the revocation at a hearing, the one-year license revocation period begins. A refusal to take a breathalyzer/blood test in Missouri permanently appears on the driver’s driving record.

In addition to the revocation, a driver who has prior intoxication-related suspension, revocation or conviction will be required to install an ignition interlock device for at least six months. Such a driver will not be allowed to drive for 90 days after which he or she can be eligible for limited driving privileges. Besides, the driver must prove that any vehicle he or she intends to drive is equipped with the ignition interlock device.

Evidentiary uses – If the case goes to trial, refusal to take a breath or blood test can be used as evidence against a driver in court. Although refusing to submit to breath or blood tests does not directly prove the accusation of DWI, the prosecution could contend that the refusal was meant to hide intoxication.

Warrants against a driver -If a driver refuses to submit to a breathalyzer or blood tests, the police can go to court and secure a warrant that allows a forcible test. Provided they secure the warrant, the driver no longer has the right to refuse breath or blood tests. The warrant allows the police to perform test by force if necessary.

Limited/Restricted License -During a suspension, a driver may be eligible to receive a Limited Driving Privilege or a Restricted Driving Privilege. These enable the driver to make necessary trips to work, school, or alcohol counseling. A driver must complete a substance abuse and alcohol education program (SATOP), secure SR-22 insurance, and install an ignition interlock device to qualify for a limited/restricted license. For more information, visit the Missouri Department of Revenue,or call a DWI attorney.

Getting your driver’s license back
After completion of the one-year license revocation, a driver is eligible to get their license back but after meeting certain requirements. The driver is required to pay $45 reinstatement fee to the Missouri Department of Revenue and successfully complete a substance abuse and alcohol education program (SATOP). In addition, the driver will be required to provide an SR-22 form showing that the vehicle has liability insurance. Drivers with more than one intoxication-related law enforcement contact will be required to install an interlock ignition device.

Fighting a suspension

Drivers facing a suspension have a right to a hearing to challenge the suspension. There are several things the state must prove: First, that there were reasonable grounds to arrest for driving while intoxicated; second, that the driver was arrested; and third, that the driver legally refused the chemical test. As part of the refusal, the state must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the refusal was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. Thus, if the officer didn’t properly read the implied consent admonishment, denied or limited the driver’s access to an attorney, or otherwise misled the driver, the suspension can be overturned. There is no penalty for contesting a suspension. Therefore, driver’s facing a suspension should always contact an attorney to review their options.

In any case, it is a good idea to get a DUI/DWI defense attorney involved.