You’ve been pulled over. The officer suspects you’re intoxicated and asks you to take a breathalyzer test. If you refuse, you are not in the clear as you might think. Thanks to implied consent laws, refusing a breathalyzer test can still result in penalties. Implied consent laws state that when you apply for a driver’s license, you submit your consent to sobriety tests. These laws are based on the rationale that driving is a privilege, not a right.
These laws are highly contested for a couple of reasons. Many question whether or not they actually keep the roads safer. Additionally, many see them as a violation of the fourth and fifth amendment.
Violating Implied Consent
Penalties for refusing a breathalyzer under implied consent laws vary by state. In some states, refusing a breathalyzer can result in jail time.
In Pennsylvania, if it is your first offense, the officer can suspend your license for a year. If it is your second or third offense, your license can be suspended for 18 months. Upon your refusal, the officer should disclose the suspension that applies. Even if you refuse the breathalyzer test, you have the right to appeal your suspension.
So, if you’ve been pulled over because an officer suspects you are impaired, refusing a breathalyzer does not necessarily evade you of a DUI charge. You can still be convicted. In fact, under Pennsylvania’s implied consent laws, your refusal can be used as evidence against you in any proceeding charges. In theory, you could face penalties for violating implied consent laws as well as a DUI conviction.
Implied Consent Debate in Pennsylvania
The debate over implied consent laws was brought before the Supreme Court in June of 2016 in Birchfield v. North Dakota. The Supreme Court upheld that refusal of a warrantless breath tests could be criminalized because breath tests do not pose any significant Fourth Amendment violations since they do not greatly intrude privacy. However, a distinction was made between breath tests and blood tests. The Supreme Court stated that refusal of warrantless blood tests could not be criminalized because they are considered more invasive than breath tests since they are more physically intrusive and reveal much more about an individual than breath tests do.
This distinction was kept in mind when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed Garrett Gaetano’s DUI conviction in June. Gaetano was arrested in Allegheny County after an officer pulled him over for what he suspected Gaetano was driving while intoxicated.
In the appeal, Gaetano’s attorney argued that the evidence of his blood test should have been suppressed. He argued Gaetano’s consent to the test was involuntary because the officer who arrested Gaetano said if he refused the blood test, his license would be suspended and he could face other penalties under PennDot. Since there was no record of what the other penalties would be, the court remanded Gaetano’s case for re-evaluation of his consent to the blood test.
Contact a Pittsburgh DUI Attorney Today
If you have been drinking and are unsure if you’re fit to drive, you should never take that chance. Ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft provide a safe alternative to getting behind the wheel after drinking. If you or a loved one faces DUI charges, contact the office of Deluca, Riccuti, and Konieczka today for a consultation.