Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

Drunk driving stops, arrests, and convictions occur frequently in Pennsylvania. Most people are acquainted with someone who has been stopped, arrested, or convicted for drunk driving. Because of how common these types of cases are, many people think that they know what you should do when you are asked to submit to a Breathalyzer test, and they might freely give you their advice even though they are not attorneys. Before you listen to someone else’s opinion about whether you should submit to or refuse a Breathalyzer test, it is important that you understand the consequences of refusing to submit to it when a police officer asks you to do so. At DiCindio Law, we regularly represent people who are facing DUI charges even after they have refused a Breathalyzer test, and we may work to secure the best possible outcome to any charges that you might face.

What happens if you refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test?

When you drive on the roads in Pennsylvania, you give your implied consent to submit to a Breathalyzer test. If you refuse to take a test when you are asked to do so by a police offer, you could face serious consequences. If you are pulled over by an officer who believes that you might be under the influence of alcohol, you may have your license suspended or possibly face jail time if you refuse to submit to a test.

If you do refuse a Breathalyzer test, the prosecutors can still charge you with a DUI or DWI based on other evidence that the officer collects, including his or her observations, the results of a field sobriety test, or witness statements. Under Pennsylvania’s implied consent laws, prosecutors may be permitted to use your refusal to take a Breathalyzer test as evidence against you in a trial.

What is Pennsylvania’s implied consent law?

In Pennsylvania, your ability to drive is considered to be a privilege rather than a right. This means that your driver’s license can be suspended if you do not submit to a breathalyzer test when you are suspected of drunk driving. When you drive, you are considered to have implicitly consented to a Breathalyzer test in exchange for your driving privileges.

In Pennsylvania, if you refuse testing when you are suspected of driving under the influence, your license can be suspended for 12 months if you have no prior suspensions or 18 months if you do. In order to restore your driving privileges, you will also have to pay a fee once your period of suspension is over.

Despite the penalties for refusing a Breathalyzer, some people refuse because they think that the penalties are less than what they might expect if they submitted to the test. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 20% of drivers who are suspected of drunk driving refuse to test. It is important for you to understand that you will still face the penalties for refusing to submit to a test even if you are successful in your DUI case because it is considered to be a separate offense and handled by PennDot, not the criminal system. Officers can also use other evidence to prove that you were driving under the influence. For example, they can testify that your speech was slurred, that your eyes were red and watery, and that they could smell the scent of alcohol on your breath. If you submit to the roadside tests, they can also testify about your performance on them.

If you submit to a Breathalyzer test and receive results showing that your BAC was 0.08% or higher, that does not automatically mean that you will be convicted of a DUI. It is possible that your attorney may be able to challenge the results to show that they were inaccurate.

How the validity of a Breathalyzer test might be challenged

When the police administer a Breathalyzer test, they are required to follow specific guidelines. If they fail to do so, the test results may be challenged. Some of these challenges might include the following:

  • The Breathalyzer machine was not properly calibrated;
  • The officer did not observe you for 20 minutes before giving you the test;
  • The Breathalyzer was administered more than two hours after your stop;
  • The officer who tested you did not have the required certification;
  • The officer who tested you did not do so properly; or
  • You were not tested two consecutive times.

If one of these challenges is successful, your test results may be inadmissible at any trial. This means that the jury would not hear evidence about your Breathalyzer test. If the results are found to be valid, there are still certain medical conditions that can result in a false positive.

You can have a false positive on a breath test due to some medical conditions and some medications can also give you false positive results because they have alcohol in them.  Smoking, vomiting, or drinking alcohol during the 20 minutes before the test will also invalidate the results.

Get help from an experienced DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law

When you refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test, you can face serious penalties such as a long suspension of your license followed by substantial restoration fees. An attorney can help to defend you and to determine whether your stop was lawful. If you refused a Breathalyzer test and have questions about your case, call DiCindio Law at 610.430.3535. We can help you to understand the options that you might have and the possible defenses that you might have available to you in your DUI case.


DISCLAIMER
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale