People who drive in Pennsylvania with blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08% or higher might be arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. After you drink alcohol, it is metabolized and enters your bloodstream. Some of the alcohol also goes to your lungs and leaves your body on your breath. Police officers might test you for the presence of alcohol or drugs by asking you to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test after your arrest. While you might think it could help your defense by refusing a chemical test, you could face more serious penalties by doing so than if you submit to the test. Here is some information about what can happen if you refuse to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test from DiCindio Law.
Penalties for refusing a chemical test in Pennsylvania
All drivers in Pennsylvania are deemed to have given their implied consent to chemical testing to determine whether or not they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you are arrested on suspicion of a DUI, the police officer will ask you to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test.
If you refuse to take the test, your driver’s license will be suspended for at least 12 months or longer. If your license has previously been suspended for refusing a chemical test, the suspension period will be 18 months. Your license will still be suspended even if you are ultimately acquitted of a DUI or are not charged with drunk driving. This is because refusing a chemical test is a separate offense in Pennsylvania.
Without a chemical test, the police can rely on other ways to prove that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They can testify about their observations of your driving, your appearance, your speech, and your motor movements. In some cases, these types of observations might be sufficient for the prosecutor to secure a conviction regardless of the absence of chemical test results. Even if your BAC test results show your BAC was higher than 0.08%, it is still possible for your attorney at DiCindio Law to challenge them and potentially win a motion to suppress them from the evidence against you.
Implied consent laws in Pennsylvania
Like other states, Pennsylvania has implied consent laws. Under these laws, you are deemed to have impliedly consented to chemical testing when you drive your vehicle on the state’s roads, streets, and highways. Implied consent laws are in place to ensure that people will consent to chemical tests and are based on the idea that driving in the state is a privilege instead of a right.
If you have been stopped because a police officer suspects that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, refusing chemical testing will not necessarily help you to avoid a conviction. The prosecutor can use the fact that you refused chemical testing as evidence against you in your DUI case. You can also face penalties for both the refusal and for a DUI if you are convicted. People who refuse chemical tests in Pennsylvania also face the penalties for the highest BAC DUIs, which are more severe than the penalties for a general impairment or high BAC DUI. If you are convicted of a DUI after refusing a chemical test, you will face the following penalties for a first offense:
- Ungraded misdemeanor on your record
- Jail from 72 hours up to six months
- Fine from $1,000 up to $5,000
- Alcohol highway safety school
- Substance abuse assessment and treatment if ordered
If you are convicted of a DUI after refusing a chemical test, the suspension of your license for the conviction will be separate from the suspension for refusing chemical testing and could run consecutively to it. When you submit to a chemical test, your BAC might also be lower than 0.16%, which is the BAC used for charging the highest BAC DUI. This means that consenting to a chemical test might mean that the penalties you might face if you are convicted might be lower than if you refuse the test.
Blood tests and the implied consent law
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court held that police must secure warrants before they can administer blood tests in Birchfield v. North Dakota. In the same case, the Supreme Court found that breath tests do not require warrants. The court made the distinction between breath and blood tests because blood tests pose a greater intrusion on privacy while breath tests do not. In the case, the Supreme Court said that refusing warrantless blood tests cannot be criminalized.
In 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a DUI conviction of a man who had been pulled over on suspicion of DUI in Commonwealth v. Gaetano. In that case, the attorney argued that the man’s consent for a blood test was involuntary based on the officer’s coercion. When the officer gave the O’Connell warnings about the consequences of refusing, he told the man that refusing a blood test would result in a license suspension and other penalties. The court sent the case back to the lower court to determine whether his consent was voluntary or not.
Get help from a DUI lawyer in Montgomery County
If you are facing DUI charges in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, a conviction could result in serious penalties. Having a DUI on your record could make it more difficult to find certain types of jobs. If you refused chemical testing, the penalties you might face could be more severe.
Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law is a skilled Montgomery County DUI attorney and former prosecutor. He knows how the prosecution works to build their cases against people who are facing DUI charges. This provides him with a unique insight and allows him to more readily identify strong defenses to the charges against his clients. Call us today to request a consultation at (610) 430-3535.