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Do you have to submit to a breath test as a Mississippi driver?

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

When you notice the flashing lights of an officer behind you, you may not even understand the reason for the traffic stop. Maybe you have a burned-out tail light that you simply haven’t noticed yet. Perhaps your tire grazed the center line, and now the officer wants to determine if you have had anything to drink earlier in the evening.

Whether because of your behavior early in the traffic stop or your driving, a police officer may begin to suspect alcohol intoxication during a roadside interaction. If they can prove that you are over the legal limit for your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), then they can arrest you and charge you with a crime.

Do you have to submit to a breath test if an officer asks you to perform one?

Mississippi does have an implied consent law

One of your most basic rights protected under the Fourth Amendment is the right to be free from unreasonable searches. That would include searches of your physical body. However, police officers can perform certain searches for the purpose of performing their jobs if they have probable cause, especially when you engage in activities like driving that require a state license.

When an officer thinks that someone is under the influence of alcohol, they need to have an articulable suspicion. Maybe you slurred your words or swerved in the road. They will need some kind of justification to request chemical testing. Frequently, officers will administer field sobriety tests before they ask for a breath test. The performance of the driver on the field sobriety tests can often provide probable cause to request a breath test.

If someone refuses to perform a breath test when an officer has probable cause to request it, that Mississippi police officer can arrest that driver for violating the implied consent law that says they will submit to testing when an officer has justification to request it.

What does an implied consent violation mean?

An officer can arrest you just for refusing a breath test even if they don’t yet have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that you were drunk at the wheel. You will likely face the suspension of your driver’s license, which is the standard penalty for implied consent law violations. Additionally, the police could still try to charge you with an impaired driving offense in addition to the implied consent violation.

Understanding the laws that apply to drunk driving traffic stops in Mississippi can help those dealing with law enforcement better protect themselves.