What Happens if I Refuse a DUI Breath or Blood Test in Philadelphia?

What Happens if I Refuse…

Most people get nervous and flustered when they get pulled over by the police. It’s important to understand that you have rights - the police cannot require you to incriminate yourself, arrest you without probable cause, or search your vehicle without a warrant. If you are pulled over and arrested for DUI, however, it’s important to understand exactly what you can and can’t do. A common question we get is whether you can refuse to take a breathalyzer test and whether there are any consequences for your refusal.

If you’ve been charged with DUI or are facing charges for refusing to take a breathalyzer, you need someone on your side who will fight for your rights. Wimmer Criminal Defense Law helps people facing DUI charges in the Philadelphia area by providing aggressive legal representation every step of the way. Philadelphia DUI defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer has the experience and knowledge you need to get a fair result. Call us at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation - the sooner you call us, the sooner we can help.

DUI in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania law, there are two situations where you can be charged with DUI:

  1. You have consumed alcohol or drugs to the point of being unable to drive a motor vehicle safely; or
  2. You have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% within two hours of operating a motor vehicle.

Most people don’t realize that they can be charged with DUI in the absence of a breathalyzer or blood test. However, proving DUI in the first scenario requires a subject determination that the driver is impaired. As a result, prosecutors tend to prefer cases that are supported by evidence that your BAC was .08% or higher.

Understanding What Happens When You Are Pulled Over for DUI

Because the DUI process is complicated and confusing, it’s helpful to understand the basic steps so that you can understand the implications of refusing a breath or blood test.

  1. You are pulled over by the officer. The officer must have reasonable suspicion that you have done something wrong, but it doesn’t need to be based on suspicion of DUI. The police can pull you over for something as simple as a broken turn light or a minor traffic infraction.
  2. The officer approaches your vehicle and begins questioning you. You are obligated to provide your identification and your registration, but you are not obligated to answer any questions regarding whether you have been drinking.
  3. If the officer suspects that you have been drinking, they may request that you perform field sobriety tests. You are not obligated to comply with this test, but your refusal to submit can be used as evidence against you.
  4. The officer will request that you take a preliminary breath test (PBT). Again, you do not have to submit to the PBT, but it can be used as evidence against you.
  5. If the officer has probable cause that you have been driving while under the influence, they may take you into custody. At this point, you will be taken to the police station where you will be required to take a formal chemical test, in the form of either a breath or blood test.

People often confuse the preliminary breath test with the formal chemical test that is administered at the station, but they are two very different things with very different consequences for refusing to submit to testing.

Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law

Like many other states, Pennsylvania has what is referred to as an “implied consent law.” The basic concept is that you agree to submit to chemical testing by virtue of holding a Pennsylvania driver’s license or simply by driving on Pennsylvania roads. To put it another way, the police do not need a warrant to require you to submit to chemical testing in order to determine your blood alcohol content.

Pennsylvania’s implied consent law does not apply to the preliminary breath test, but it does apply to the chemical test administered at the police station. As a result, there are very serious consequences if you refuse to submit to a blood or breath test at the station under Pennsylvania’s implied consent law.

The Consequences of Refusal

Once you are in police custody, the police will request you to consent to either a blood or breath test. If you refuse, you face the following consequences:

  • Automatic suspension of your driver’s license for 12 months for a first offense; 18 months if you have prior DUI convictions
  • Payment of fees to have your license restored: $500 for a first offense, $1,000 for a second offense, $2,000 for third and subsequent offenses

The police must inform you of the consequences of refusal before the penalties can be imposed. Also, keep in mind that these penalties are immediately imposed. If you are convicted of DUI refusal, you face the following additional penalties:

First offense:

  • A mandatory minimum jail time of 72 hours up to six months;
  • A mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 up to $5,000

Second offense:

  • A mandatory minimum jail sentence of 90 days in jail up to five years
  • A mandatory minimum fine of $1,500

Third and subsequent offenses:

  • A mandatory minimum jail sentence of one year
  • A mandatory minimum fine of $2,500

As you can see, refusing a blood or breath test in Philadelphia is a serious crime that carries very harsh penalties. To make matters worse, you will most likely be facing an accompanying DUI charge, which will carry penalties that may be imposed in addition to the ones above. That said, you could be convicted for DUI refusal even if your DUI charge is dismissed or you are acquitted.

Call Us Today to Speak with a DUI Defense Attorney in Philadelphia

If you’ve been charged with DUI or refusing a breathalyzer or blood test, you are facing very serious consequences. Don’t jeopardize your case by waiting to talk to a lawyer - contact Philadelphia DUI defense attorney Lauren Wimmer today. Call us at 215-712-1212 to schedule your free consultation to discuss your case and how we can help you.

Image Credit: minimoniotaku via flickr
Categories: Criminal Defense