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Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer in Pennsylvania?

05 Jul 2024, by Anna Soppelsa in Criminal Defense, DUI
Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer in Pennsylvania?

Written by Timothy Czekaj

Pennsylvania DUI laws are strict, and understanding the rules surrounding breathalyzer tests is crucial if you’re asked to take one. Refusing a breathalyzer can have significant consequences. Here’s what you need to know about your rights and obligations.

What Are Breathalyzers, and How Do They Affect DUI Cases?

Breathalyzers are used by law enforcement officers to measure an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by analyzing a breath sample. In Pennsylvania, the legal limit for BAC is 0.08% for drivers aged 21 and over. Breathalyzer results can be used as evidence in court to determine whether a driver was operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, which is a criminal offense classified as a DUI (Driving Under the Influence).

Portable breath tests are commonly employed during traffic stops or sobriety checkpoints to detect impaired driving. More sophisticated machines or blood tests are used at the station to determine your BAC if you’re arrested.

Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has an implied consent law. By operating a motor vehicle on public roads, drivers are deemed to have consented to chemical testing (such as a breathalyzer or blood test) if suspected of DUI. Refusing such tests can result in consequences.

In Pennsylvania, portable breath testing is a common occurrence at traffic stops. If you’re arrested and taken to the station, the breathalyzer is less commonly used in favor of blood testing since it often produces more reliable results. However, the consequences of refusal are applicable to both breath and blood testing.

Consequences of Refusal

If a driver refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test, they may face an automatic suspension of their driver’s license, even if they are ultimately not convicted of DUI.

The penalties for refusing a breathalyzer can be even more severe than those for a DUI conviction:

  • First refusal offense: 12-month license suspension and a fine of up to $500 fine (which you must pay to reinstate your license after a year).
  • Second refusal: 18-month license suspension and a maximum fine of $1,000 fine
  • Third refusal: 18-month license suspension and a fine of up to $2,000

Beyond administrative penalties, refusing a breathalyzer can lead to criminal charges. You may face fines and even jail time. Additionally, refusal can impact your DUI defense, as it can be used as evidence of guilt in court. It is not an easy way out and often results in harsher penalties.

Can You Refuse a Roadside Sobriety Test?

The police may administer field sobriety tests alongside a breathalyzer request. These tests, however, can be subjective and prone to inaccuracies due to factors like fatigue, nerves, or certain medical conditions. They do not fall under PA implied consent law, so you can politely refuse.

Valid Reasons to Refuse a Breathalyzer in PA

Certain medical conditions, such as respiratory or lung disorders, may make providing an accurate breath sample difficult. You may also choose to refuse the test if there is reason to believe that the breathalyzer equipment is malfunctioning or has not been properly calibrated. However, this decision should be made carefully and with the guidance of a qualified DUI defense attorney.

How to Properly Refuse a Breathalyzer

If you decide to refuse a breathalyzer test, remain calm and polite when interacting with law enforcement officers. Aggressive or confrontational behavior may exacerbate the situation and potentially lead to additional charges.

When refusing a breathalyzer, drivers should explicitly request a blood test instead. Blood tests are generally considered more accurate and reliable than breathalyzers and can provide a stronger defense in court.

Should You Refuse a Breathalyzer?

While you technically have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test in Pennsylvania, it is not advisable in most situations. The license suspension alone can be a major disruption to your daily life. With the help of a DUI lawyer, you can appeal the refusal or license suspension based on the specifics of your case.

Challenging a Refusal Charge in Pennsylvania

If you’re charged with DUI or refusal to submit to chemical testing, don’t wait to seek legal help from an experienced DUI defense attorney. Defending against a breathalyzer refusal charge requires a nuanced approach. A DUI attorney may employ various defense strategies to challenge a refusal charge, such as:

  • Questioning the validity of the traffic stop
  • Challenging the accuracy of the equipment
  • Arguing that the refusal was justified

Work with a Pennsylvania DUI Attorney

Navigating DUI laws and refusal charges can be complex, which is why it’s important to work with an experienced DUI defense attorney. A lawyer with experience in similar cases can help protect your rights, challenge the charges, and potentially help you avoid the harshest penalties of a DUI or refusal charge.

Call Czekaj Law Today if You’re Charged with DUI or Refusal to Submit

While refusing a breath test might seem like a good idea in the moment, the penalties can be severe. If you were charged with a DUI or breathalyzer refusal, contact Czekaj Law LLC today. We understand how complex these cases can be and are dedicated to protecting your rights.

Call 717-275-9770 today or contact us for a free consultation.