You may not want to refuse to breathalyze in Pennsylvania

Perhaps you left a local bar after having beers with colleagues. You roll through a stop sign, and an officer pulls you over. The officer notes your slurred speech and inability to make eye contact, so they ask you to perform a field sobriety test. You believe you pass, yet the officer asks to test your BAC level with a breathalyzer.

You may not want to refuse. Perhaps you believe that by the time an officer arrests you and brings you to the station for further testing, your BAC level may test low enough to pass. Unfortunately, because of the law of implied consent, you may already be charged with a crime in addition to a DUI.

Pennsylvania and implied consent

For most states including Pennsylvania, charging drivers with DUIs prove more successful if the state inflicts punishment on those who refuse breathalyzers at the scene. According to Pennsylvania State Police, over 19,000 DUI arrests occurred in 2016.

The implied consent law states that any person who is in actual physical control a vehicle voluntarily consents to chemical tests to determine their BAC level. Because you have the right to drive a vehicle and use public roadways, the implied consent law says that an officer has the right to test you should he or she see signs of intoxication.

Refusing the test is a criminal offense subject to serious consequences. When you refuse, an officer must explain that you that you are subject to the following penalties.

  • Suspension of your license for 12 months and a $500 restoration fee
  • If you have previously refused a BAC test:
    • Suspension of your license for 18 months and a restoration fee of up to $2,000

Double conviction: Refusal and DUI

After refusing a chemical test and subjecting yourself to the refusal charge’s respective consequences, the possibility of a DUI conviction does not diminish. If a court finds you guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol, a judge may charge you with both criminal offenses.

The bottom line is that in Pennsylvania, you may wish to comply with breathalyzing at an officer’s discretion. The best-case scenario proves to be your passing of the chemical test and avoidance of any charges, but refusing the test may only place you in deeper trouble with Pennsylvania law.

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Theodore H. Swan, Jr., Attorney at Law
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