If you are over the age of 21, you are legally allowed to refuse a breathalyzer in Minnesota. Now, that does not mean you are free from consequences for refusing. If you are suspected of driving drunk and you refuse to take a breath test, you can face a driver’s license suspension for a violation of the state’s implied consent law.
But how does Minnesota handle the prospect of test refusal for individuals under the legal drinking age? We tackle that question in today’s blog.
Underage Drinking And Test Refusal
Minnesota’s “Not A Drop” law makes it illegal for a person under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system. For this reason, it’s probably much more common that an underage drinker would consider refusing a breath test, because they would know that even half a beer could put them over the legal driving limit. For drivers under the age of 21, they are legally allowed to refuse a breath test, but they may still face underage DUI (or another alcohol-related charge depending on their BAC) and implied consent penalties. This doesn’t mean you should always submit to a breath test, but it’s worth knowing that you’re not in the clear from alcohol-related penalties simply because you refuse a breath test.
Things become a little more complex when we talk about underage drinkers who aren’t driving. First, let’s start with passengers in a vehicle. Police cannot lawfully force a passenger to take a breath test if they are suspected of having consumed alcohol illegally. The passenger would not be subject to implied consent penalties since they are not driving, but again, that doesn’t mean they are fully in the clear because they can legally refuse a test. If an officer has probable cause to believe they are over the 0.00 legal limit, passengers can still be cited for underage drinking or possession of alcohol by a minor.
And what about minors that are just out and about, minding their own business, nowhere near a car? A similar sentiment applies. A minor is not legally obligated to provide a breath sample for an officer who suspects they have consumed alcohol, and no penalties for the refusal itself will be imposed. Again, an officer can still write a citation for underage consumption or possession by a minor, but it becomes more difficult to prove in court if it’s just the officer’s word versus yours. If they have no physical evidence, a lawyer may be able to get the charge dropped for lack of evidence.
It’s unlikely that an officer is going to let you go if a breath test shows only a little alcohol in your system, so don’t just blow and hope for the best. You can legally say no without repercussions for the refusal itself (unless you’re a driver – implied consent). And if you’re going to be ticketed anyways, it will always be easier to fight in court if the officer has no evidence linking you to the violation.
If you’ve been cited or face penalties for underage alcohol consumption, reach out to Avery and the team at Appelman Law Firm today.