A police officer who has pulled over a driver on suspicion of drinking and driving has several methods of gathering evidence, including questioning the driver, observing their behavior, and field sobriety tests. But perhaps the most important tool at the officer’s disposal during a traffic stop is the breath test, commonly known as the breathalyzer. This is the handheld device that is supposed to measure a person’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) by analyzing their breath.
An arrest for DUI can lead to serious consequences, potentially including up to six months of probation, attendance of alcohol highway safety school and a $300 fine for the lowest-level first offense. A conviction for a higher DUI charge can send you to jail and cost you your driver’s license for a year or longer. Thus, should you really make it easy for the officer and consent to the breathalyzer? What happens if you say no?
‘Implied consent’ in Pennsylvania
Like every other state, Pennsylvania has an implied consent law. Under this statute, anyone who drives on any road in the commonwealth has, by implication, agreed to submit to breath and blood testing upon a police officer’s demand. However, the statute does not make refusing the test a crime that you can be charged with and convicted of in court. And the police may not force you to take it against our will. But declining the roadside breath test triggers an automatic 12- or 18-month suspension of your license — a suspension you can appeal later on.
Don’t give up
Whether you submitted to the breath test at the scene, and no matter what you tested at later at the police station or hospital, you may still have options to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed. For example, officers sometimes fail to follow the guidelines for using the breathalyzer properly so it gives an accurate reading. A defense attorney who handles DUI cases regularly will know where to look for holes in the prosecution’s case.