Did you refuse a breath test during your DUI arrest in Pennsylvania? If so, it will be important for you to learn about the Commonwealth’s implied consent law. Under this law, you are required to submit to blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing during a DUI arrest; and, if you refuse to submit to testing, you can face consequences regardless of whether you were driving under the influence.

With that said, there are exceptions. Not only must DUI suspects comply with Pennsylvania’s implied consent law, but the police must comply with the law as well. If the police failed to fully comply with the law during your arrest, this could provide you with a defense.

Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law

So, what do you need to know about Pennsylvania’s implied consent law? We’ll start with the basics—understanding what it means to give “implied consent.” As stated in Section 75-1547 the Pennsylvania Statutes:

“Any person who drives . . . a vehicle in this Commonwealth shall be deemed to have given consent to one or more chemical tests of breath or blood for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of blood or the presence of a controlled substance if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person to have been driving, operating or in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle [under the influence of alcohol]. . . .”

Basically, simply by driving in Pennsylvania, you agree that you will submit to a BAC test if the police pull you over on suspicion of DUI. In other words, by driving in the Commonwealth, you give your “implied consent” to provide a breath or blood sample if the police have reason to suspect that you may be driving drunk.

Before taking your BAC reading, the police must inform you of the consequences of refusing to comply—which we discuss in detail below. If the officer who arrests you does not inform you of these consequences, then your refusal does not violate the law. Section 75-1547 makes this clear, stating:

“If any person placed under arrest for [DUI] is requested to submit to chemical testing and refuses to do so, the testing shall not be conducted but upon notice by the police officer . . . [that] the department shall suspend the operating privilege of the person . . . .”

Most police officers are familiar with this requirement; and, in most cases, the police will inform you of the consequences of refusing to provide a breath or blood sample as required by law. But, sometimes they make mistakes; and, if there is no proof that the police provided you with the required warning, this could be enough to protect you as well.

To be clear, Pennsylvania’s implied consent law only applies to BAC tests. It does not apply to the field sobriety tests. You are fully within your rights to refuse the field sobriety tests—and, if you refuse, you cannot face any consequences for doing so.

Consequences of Refusing a Breath Test in Pennsylvania

Let’s say you refused the breathalyzer during your DUI arrest, and let’s say the arresting officer informed you of the consequences of your refusal while recording your arrest on video. What consequences are you facing?
In Pennsylvania, implied consent violations carry an automatic driver’s license suspension. For first-time offenders, this suspension typically lasts for 12 months. If you have a prior implied consent violation on your record, you could be facing up to an 18-month driver’s license suspension.

Prosecutors can also use your refusal against you in your DUI case. Under Pennsylvania law, improperly refusing a BAC test gives rise to a presumption that you knew you were too drunk to drive. In the absence of countervailing evidence, this presumption can go a long way toward helping prosecutors secure a conviction.

However, this presumption can also be overcome. While someone might refuse a BAC test because they know they are drunk, they might refuse the test for a variety of other reasons as well. Were you unaware of Pennsylvania’s implied consent law? Did you misunderstand what the officer told you? Were you too scared, stressed, or confused to make a sound decision? Were you concerned that you might not physically be able to take the test? These are all factors that can (and do) lead to refusals—and none of them warrant a presumption that you were too drunk to drive.

How a DUI Lawyer Can Help with Your Case

With all of this in mind, if you refused testing during your drunk driving arrest, what can a DUI lawyer do to help? In this scenario, an experienced lawyer will be able to help you by:

  • Determining if You Have Grounds to Fight Your Implied Consent Charge (and Fighting If Warranted) – Your lawyer can determine if you have grounds to fight your implied consent charge; and, if you do, your lawyer can fight your charge on your behalf. This is the only way to protect your license once you’ve been accused of violating Pennsylvania’s implied consent law.
  • Fighting the Presumption that You Knew You Were Too Drunk to Drive – Your lawyer can also fight the presumption that you knew you were too drunk to drive. As discussed above, while prosecutors can use this presumption to their advantage in your DUI case, there are various ways to show that this presumption is unwarranted.
  • Helping to Minimize the Consequences of Your DUI Arrest – Even if prosecutors don’t have your BAC, they may still be able to use various other forms of evidence to prove that you were drunk behind the wheel. Your lawyer will be able to help minimize the consequences of your DUI arrest by all means available—including seeking Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) if possible and negotiating a plea bargain if necessary.

Request a Free Consultation with DUI Lawyer Brian C. Jordan in Monroe County, PA

Did you refuse the breath test during your DUI arrest in Pennsylvania? If so, we encourage you to contact us promptly to discuss your defense. To request a free consultation with DUI lawyer Brian C. Jordan in Monroe County, PA, please call 570-764-4114 or get in touch online today.

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