A long-held belief is that it's always best to refuse a breathalyzer test if you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. However, with Mississippi's new DUI law, it is now often smarter to take the test, especially for a first offense.
The new law includes the option for non-adjudication and "expunction" for first-time DUI offenses. This means the judge can withhold a judgment of guilt until the case is resolved so that the conviction can eventually be expunged, or permanently erased, from the driver's record.
But new options are much more difficult to pursue if the breath test has been refused.
The new DUI law went into effect on Oct. 1, 2014, and it can result in not only a clean record but also no insurance consequences, which is a huge benefit for drivers.
Through the non-adjudication process, the driver enters a guilty plea, but is not found guilty of DUI. The driver, instead, has to meet several requirements before the DUI charge is eventually dismissed. It can then be completely expunged from the driver's record.
What are the requirements of non-adjudication and expunction?
The requirements of non-adjudication include paying all of the fines imposed by the court and adhering to all penalties, including attending an alcohol safety course and installing an ignition interlock device for 120 days.
Once all of the court's conditions have been completed and five years have passed since the conviction, the driver is eligible to have the DUI "expunged" from his or her record. That means the record becomes crystal clear, as if he or she had never been pulled over.
In order to be eligible for expunction, the driver must not have any other DUI conviction or pending DUI charges. It is possible to non-adjudicate a DUI with a breath test refusal, but it is more difficult and requires 180 days of restricted driver's license and an ignition interlock device as opposed to 120 days with a breath test.
Finally, the driver must be able to explain to the judge why the conviction should be expunged. And remember, this only applies to first-time DUIs.
To benefit from the new law, submit to testing
As you can see, submitting to breath or blood testing is often the best choice for drivers who want to take advantage of the non-adjudication and expunction process. It is also necessary to be represented by an experienced defense lawyer who can make sure that the process is completed correctly.
Also, always remember that if you are NOT intoxicated at the time of your stop or detention for DUI, the breath test is your best and most reliable witness.