When people are pulled over because of an officer’s suspicion that they might be driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances, the officer will conduct an investigation. The investigation might include officer questioning, observations, and field sobriety tests. If the officer develops probable cause to believe that a person has been driving under the influence, he or she might take the person into custody and transport him or her to the police station for further testing of the breath, blood, or urine. Some Pennsylvanians think that it is better to refuse chemical testing so that the police will not have evidence to use against them. Here is what the legal team at DiCindio Law believes that you should know about refusing breath, blood, or urine tests in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s implied consent law
Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547, people who drive vehicles in Pennsylvania are deemed to have implicitly given consent for their breath, blood, or urine to be tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs in situations in which police officers have reasonable grounds to believe that they have been driving under the influence. If a driver refuses to submit to testing, the police officer can seek a search warrant to get a blood sample. While it is not a criminal offense to refuse a test, there are civil penalties attached to refusal. People who are convicted of a DUI offense for which they refused testing will also face stiffer penalties.
Refusing to take a preliminary breath test
If a police officer thinks that you might be driving under the influence of alcohol, the officer might ask you to perform several field sobriety tests, including the walk and turn, one-legged stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. These are physical and cognitive performance tests that are conducted at the roadside. The officer might also ask you to submit to a preliminary breath test. This is a roadside test in which people are asked to blow into a portable device so that the officer can determine whether they have alcohol in their systems. The implied consent law does not apply to standardized field sobriety tests or preliminary breath tests. You do have the right to refuse the SFSTs and the PBT. However, if an officer has other indications that you may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including the smell of alcohol, your speech, bloodshot eyes, and your appearance, the officer might take you into custody and ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test at the police station.
Breathalyzer test at the police station
If you either refuse a PBT or take one with results that indicate the possible presence of alcohol, the police officer will likely take you to the police station for further testing. You do not have the right to refuse this second chemical test. Most people are asked to submit to breathalyzer tests at the law enforcement agency. If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you will face civil penalties and stiffer criminal penalties for the DUI offense. The breathalyzer test is administered by a trained police officer who must follow a specific protocol for the test. He or she will have you blow into a machine, and the machine will analyze your breath and print the results out. If the test shows the presence of alcohol, the penalties that you might face will depend on the blood alcohol concentration that is revealed by the breathalyzer test and on whether you have any prior DUI convictions within the last 10 years.
In some counties in Pennsylvania, police officers transport DUI suspects to a hospital to have their blood drawn by phlebotomists. Police officers might also file affidavits for search warrants to obtain blood samples when they have probable cause to believe that the people are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An officer might ask for a blood test when a person submits a PBT result that shows no alcohol in his or her system, but the officer has probable cause to believe that the person is under the influence of other substances. Like a breath test, people in Pennsylvania are deemed to have given implied consent to a blood test when they drive in the state.
Urine tests are rarely used in Pennsylvania DUI cases because they are unreliable. When you submit to a urine test, it will show the presence of metabolites without differentiating between them and the active drug in your system. Urine tests are generally not used in cases involving alcohol, but they might be used in DUI-drug cases if a blood test is not available.
Penalties for refusing a breath, blood, or urine test
The civil penalties for refusing a breath, blood, or urine test in Pennsylvania include the following:
- Automatic 12-month suspension for a first refusal
- Automatic 18-month suspension if you have a prior refusal, a prior DUI conviction, or another similar prior offense
- Restoration fee of $500 up to $2,000
- Ignition interlock device installed
- Refusal can be used as evidence against you in court in your DUI case
People who refuse chemical tests may also face the same penalties of the highest BAC DUI if they are convicted.
Get help from an experienced DUI defense attorney
Understanding the consequences of refusing to submit to chemical testing is important so that you can weigh your options. If you are charged with a DUI, an experienced criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law can review the test that was performed and potentially identify problems with how it was conducted. Your lawyer might also look at the circumstances that surrounded your arrest to determine whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop you and probable cause to arrest you. Depending on what happened, a lawyer might be able to win suppression of some or all of the evidence against you. Contact DiCindio Law to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by filling out our online contact form.