There tends to be a lot of misunderstanding about what happens when a person refuses a breath test after a DUI arrest in Mississippi. Make no mistake: Mississippi's "implied consent" law means that your license could be suspended for at least 90 days and up to a year if you refuse a Breathalyzer test.
Still, what are your options if you did refuse? Here are some things to understand.
1. Refusing a breath test does not automatically lead to a DUI conviction.
Regardless of whether you refused a breath test or not, there must be proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for the prosecution to convict you of DUI. Still, the prosecution can use your refusal to claim that you knew you were drunk, and the fact that there are no results from a breath test does not necessarily mean that you won't be found guilty.
Keep in mind, though, that the DUI arrest is the start of a process. You have a right to challenge the prosecution in court.
2. Refusing to submit to a breath test will result in an automatic suspension of your driver's license, and you have only a short time to challenge that administrative suspension.
Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to keep your driver's license while your DUI case is underway. The key here is to contact a lawyer and respond quickly after refusing a breath test. People throughout Mississippi depend on their vehicles to get to work and take care of daily tasks, and it can be helpful to keep your license while your DUI case is being decided.
If you refused to submit to a Breathalyzer, a letter will be sent to the address on your license, and you will have only 10 days to contest your license suspension. Contesting the administrative suspension does not necessarily mean that you will avoid license suspension if you are ultimately convicted of DUI, but again, talk to a DUI defense lawyer about your options soon after the arrest.
3. A hardship license may be an option.
These steps must be taken to obtain a hardship license in Mississippi:
- Show examples of hardship, including any medical, education or employment needs
- Attend the Mississippi Alcohol Education Program (MASEP)
- Obtain vehicle liability insurance -- SR-22 insurance
The consequences of a DUI arrest may go well beyond driver's license suspension, and anyone facing a drunk driving charge in Mississippi should mount a strong defense that works to minimize the negative consequences.
For more on these matters, please see our DUI defense overview.