When most people think of a person being arrested for DUI, they conjure up images of field sobriety tests and a person blowing into a roadside breathalyzer unit. However, chemical testing is a key part of DUI charges in Pennsylvania, particularly if prosecutors and law enforcement officials want the charges to stick. Here, we want to discuss what chemical testing is in these situations as well as when chemical tests are conducted during the DUI process.
Why Would a Chemical Test be Necessary?
Anytime a person is suspected of driving under the influence in Pennsylvania, they may be required to take a blood, breath, or urine test. These tests are designed to determine whether or not a person is intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.
However, it is not uncommon for these tests to return inaccurate results. If you or somebody you love has been asked to submit to a chemical test for a suspected DUI incident, you need to speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
What are the Different Chemical Tests in Pennsylvania?
There are various types of chemical tests that law enforcement officials may use to determine whether or not a person has alcohol or drugs in their system.
This is the most common type of test people associate with DUIs. Breath tests are taken in one of two ways:
- At the side of the road where the traffic stop occurred
- At the police station
Roadside breathalyzer tests are designed to assist while enforcement officers when determining whether or not they have probable cause for an arrest. However, these tests have been notoriously inaccurate in the past, and they should not be used as the sole determining factor for whether or not charges are appropriate in these situations.
Breath tests that occur at the police station are designed to be used as evidence at trial. However, even a breathalyzer taken at the station can be inaccurate. Additionally, breath tests do not detect the presence of drugs in a person’s system, only alcohol.
Blood tests are used to determine a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) or to detect the presence of narcotics in a person’s system. However, blood tests are required to be taken within a specific set of guidelines to ensure that they are accurate. If a blood chemical test is not properly administered, the results will not be accurate, and an attorney will usually be able to get this evidence suppressed.
Urine tests are often considered the least reliable form of DUI chemical testing. When the prosecution is relying on urine testing to prove that a person was intoxicated, an attorney will certainly challenge these results in court. Urine samples must be properly labeled and stored, and there are very specific requirements under the law about how law enforcement officials have to handle these particular tests.
Can You Refuse a Chemical Test?
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, all drivers operate under implied consent laws. This means that a driver is required to submit to a chemical test of their breath, urine, or blood. Just by operating on the roadway and having a driver’s license, a person has consented to this type of testing already, regardless of whether or not they are ever pulled over for suspected DUI.
If a police officer pulls somebody over and suspects they are intoxicated, the officer must advise that person that they are allowed to refuse chemical testing but that there are consequences for refusal. If a person refuses a chemical test, their driver’s license will be suspended. The first time a person refuses to consent to testing, they will lose their license for 12 months regardless of the outcome of their case. If a person refuses to submit to chemical testing a second or subsequent time, their driver’s license will be suspended for 18 months.