Getting pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving is a scary experience for many Mississippi residents. Even if you know that you did nothing wrong, an officer may still ask you to take a chemical test (e.g., a Breathalyzer) to determine your blood-alcohol level. Your first instinct may be to say “no,” but you need to be aware of the consequences of such a refusal.
How “Implied Consent” Works in Mississippi
So what happens if an officer asks you to a take a chemical test and you refuse? Basically, your driver's license will be automatically suspended. Driving is a privilege granted by the state. You do not have to be charged or convicted of criminal DUI in order to trigger a license suspension.
Under Mississippi Code, Section 63-11-5, refusal under the implied consent law carries a mandatory 90-day license suspension if you have no prior DUI convictions. If you do have a prior conviction, the suspension will last a full year. The arresting officer must inform you of these consequences at the time he or she requests the blood, breath, or urine test.
The Review & Appeal Process
If you refuse a chemical test, the officer will take your driver's license immediately and give you a receipt that allows you to continue driving temporarily while your case is under review. The officer will then make a formal report to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, which has jurisdiction over administrative driver's license suspensions. Again, it is important to note an administrative suspension is separate from any consequences you may face if later convicted of DUI. The Department only needs to find there was “probable cause” for the arresting officer to suspect DUI, that the officer requested a chemical test and you refused, and that you received proper notice that your license would be suspended as a consequence of said refusal.
If the Department upholds the suspension, it will send you a written notice to that effect. Your suspension, whether for 90 days or 1 year, will begin 30 days after the notice is issued. But within 10 days of the Department's decision, you have the right to file an appeal with your local circuit court. A judge will then hold a hearing, without a jury, at which time you can present evidence and cross-examine the arresting officer. You cannot appeal to the circuit court, however, if your license is suspended as the result of a criminal DUI conviction.