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Preliminary breath test versus Breathalyzer

On Behalf of | Aug 26, 2022 | DWI

If you’re driving along a Minnesota roadway and a police officer pulls you over, it is critically important that you understand your rights, especially if the officer asks you to exit your vehicle. It is always best to comply with this request. When a police officer tells you to exit your vehicle, it typically suggests that you’re under suspicion for drunk driving, which means you might also be asked to take a breath test.

It’s important to remember that a preliminary alcohol screening or roadside breath test is different from a chemical Breathalyzer test that is required by implied consent laws. If you refuse to take a Breathalyzer after you’ve been arrested for suspected drunk driving, there are automatic penalties, which, in this state, may include a suspension of your driver’s license for one year.

Refusing a preliminary breath test (PBT) is not a crime

The main difference between a PBT and a secondary chemical breath test is that a PBT is typically administered during a traffic stop, while a secondary test (using a chemical Breathalyzer device) is usually administered after a person has been taken into police custody, which is when implied consent laws apply. If a police officer asks you to take a roadside breath test, you are not committing a crime if you refuse.

However, refusing to take a Breathalyzer test following an arrest not only incurs administrative penalties (driver’s license suspension) but criminal charges, as well. In Minnesota, it is considered a crime to refuse a secondary chemical breath test.

There are no penalties for refusing a PBT

A Minnesota police officer can’t arrest you for refusing to take a PBT. The state cannot suspend your driver’s license for refusing this test, either. What can (and often does) happen, though, is that, if your case goes to trial, prosecutors may inform the court that you refused a PBT as a means of trying to incriminate you when facing drunk driving charges.

Breathalyzer test devices must be properly calibrated

The machine that is used to test your breath following a DUI arrest must be calibrated, which means that certain methods are used to ensure that the device is registering accurate measurements. Many people say that the fact that such devices can be manually adjusted, and need to be so from time to time, proves that Breathalyzers are unreliable.

Navigating DUI proceedings

If you take a breath test and wind up facing DUI charges in a Minnesota court, you’re guaranteed an opportunity to present a defense. The more you know about breath test laws, as well as your rights as protected under the U.S. Constitution, the better able you might be to achieve a positive outcome in court.