D.U.I. CHEMICAL TESTS and YOUR RIGHTS
Each person who drives in the state of Pennsylvania is deemed to have given his/her consent to one or more chemical tests of their breath, blood, or urine upon a lawful request. Failure to comply with a lawful request will be considered a "refusal" and can result in penalties and suspension of driving privileges. For more information go to Chemical Tests or visit my website at www.DUIHelpPA.com
When a person is driving and is stopped by a police officer, the officer may ask you to perform field sobriety tests if he or she suspects that you may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The purpose of these field sobriety tests is to see if there is probable cause allowing the police to request chemical testing, either a blood, breath or urine test.
Implied Consent Law
Each person who drives in the state of Pennsylvania is deemed to have given his/her consent to one or more chemical tests of their breath, blood, or urine upon a lawful request. A request is considered lawful where the police have reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving, operating, or in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle while under the influence of controlled substances and/or alcohol. Failure to comply with a lawful request will be considered a "refusal." The fact that you refused to take a test will be admissible against you in court as evidence of your guilt.
Once placed into police custody, a Pennsylvania DUI suspect must be read his/her implied consent rights if a chemical test is going to be requested. The implied consent rights inform individuals of the consequences of their refusal so that they may make an inform decision of whether or not they wish to take the test. Failure of the police to advise suspects of their implied consent rights may become an issue that will affect the admissibility of the test results or evidence of refusal. Refusals carry an automatic suspension of your driver's license or privilege to drive within the state for a period of 1 year, or 18 months if you previously refused chemical testing.
Who Gets to Pick Which Test I Take, Me Or The Officer?
There are currently three different chemical tests (blood, breath, and urine) that measure a person's blood alcohol content. The availability and usage of them differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The decision of which test will be administered is made by the police officer, depending on the local laws of any particular jurisdiction. The officer has the discretion as to which test will be administered. If a driver is suspected of driving while under the influence of drugs, a blood test will almost certainly be given. If a driver is suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol, breath and blood tests are the most common.
A handheld preliminary breath test (PBT) is often used by an officer to make an arrest decision in a DUI case. These devices are inaccurate, typically inadmissible, and should not be relied on. The results of this test are not admissible at trial to prove that you were under the influence, however, the results may form the basis for probable cause. In other words, if you are over the limit on the PBT you will asked to take another test, either blood, breath or urine.
PBT's are handheld breath testing devices that are used in the field. They are different then the breath machines used at the police station. They are smaller and typically have an LCD readout. Unlike the large station breath machines, PBT's lack the ability to print out the result.
Remember that submitting to any chemical test is voluntary and can always be refused. Your refusal will carry penalties however. In Pennsylvania, you will generally lose your privilege to drive for a period of one year if you refuse a chemical test. This suspension will be in addition and consecutive to any suspension you receive as the result of a conviction for D.U.I.
Can I speak to an attorney before chemical tests are administerd?
The short answer is no because it will unnecessarily delay administration of the test. The courts have held that anything other than an unqualified consent to testing is deemed a refusal.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven R. Tabano, Esquire is an attorney practicing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His practice concentrates in the area of Family Law and Criminal Defense. Attorney Tabano has tried many cases in his 20 years of practice and has argued before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on several occasions.