Drunk driving is a serious offense that can not only have serious legal consequences, but also lead to tragic accidents and extensive damages. To enforce safety on the roads, Pennsylvania law enforcement can pull over suspected impaired drivers and ask them to take a DUI breathalyzer test.
While you can refuse to take a breathalyzer test when instructed to by a police officer, doing so is often not in your best interest – and it can lead to additional legal consequences beyond just a DUI conviction.
Implied Consent Laws
Since driving is a privilege and not a right, implied consent laws are what allow for consequences if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test. The idea is that, by driving on Pennsylvania roads, you are consenting to chemical testing to determine your blood alcohol level when an officer rightfully stops you for suspected drunk driving. This test must happen within two hours of driving, and the officer must have observed you for twenty minutes prior to testing.
Pennsylvania’s implied consent laws cover more than an officer observing you driving under the influence. Pennsylvania applies implied consent when drivers have physical control of the vehicle – where it would be possible for the driver to move the car, even if he or she is not attempting to do so. For example, sitting in the driver’s seat of a stopped car with the keys in the ignition while intoxicated could be grounds for a DUI breathalyzer test under Pennsylvania law.
What Happens If I Refuse to Take a Breathalyzer Test?
Refusing to take a breathalyzer test has additional consequences, even if you aren’t convicted of drunk driving. While an officer cannot force you to take a test if you refuse, you will still face the consequences of refusal – and the additional consequences of your DUI conviction if found guilty.
For your first offense of refusal to take a breathalyzer test, you will face a one-year license suspension and pay a $500 reinstatement fee to reclaim your license. A second offense will lead to an 18-month license suspension and a $1000 reinstatement fee. Third and subsequent offenses will have an 18-month suspension and a $2000 reinstatement fee.
Even if you do refuse to take the breathalyzer test, you still have a right to challenge your license suspension due to a DUI conviction. It’s also possible to earn limited driving privileges during your suspension, but that would require installing an ignition interlock device in your car, which prevents your car from operating if you attempt to drive while intoxicated. Talk to a Pennsylvania attorney if you have questions regarding your case.
Should I Refuse to Take a Breathalyzer Test?
While you do have the legal right to refuse a DUI breathalyzer test, it often is not worth it. It may seem like refusing a test could protect you from a DUI conviction, but it’s still possible for a court to convict you without a breathalyzer result. Many prosecutors will take your refusal to consent as evidence of intoxication and use that as grounds for conviction.
If you do receive a conviction for a DUI after refusing to take a breathalyzer test, you will have to face the penalties for both crimes. The penalties for refusing a breathalyzer are more severe than a first-time DUI offense.
For drivers who aren’t driving under the influence, they have nothing to fear from taking a breathalyzer test. Even drivers who are operating their vehicles while above the legal blood alcohol content will have fewer legal ramifications by consenting to BAC testing. The best move is to not drive after consuming alcohol – and to cooperate with any officers who pull you over for suspected DUI.