An investigating officer will often ask a suspected impaired driver to take a breath or blood test to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs in the driver’s system. The driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or the concentration of drugs in the driver’s blood is routinely used by prosecutors to prove a DUI in court. Refusal to submit to testing will have both civil and criminal consequences.
Pennsylvania’s implied consent law states that any person who drives in Pennsylvania is deemed to have given consent to one or more tests of the person’s breath or blood. However, this requirement applies only if the driver is legally detained for suspicion of driving under the influence. Even if the driver refuses testing, the arresting officer can still apply for a search warrant to obtain a blood sample.
License suspension. If the driver refuses to submit to testing, the officer will notify the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT will then impose a 12-month license suspension, which runs consecutively with any other suspensions (a DUI conviction will also lead to license suspension). The suspension will be 18 months if the driver has a prior refusal suspension, a prior DUI conviction, or any similar prior offense. Drivers can contest the suspension by requesting a hearing.
Ignition interlock devices. Prior to license reinstatement, offenders must install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) for one year. However, by installing the IID after serving half of the required suspension period, the offender can regain driving privileges (with the IID) early.
Reinstatement fee. After serving the suspension period and holding the IID for one year, the driver can apply for reinstatement. For a first refusal, the driver must pay a reinstatement fee of $500. This fee is $1,000 for a second offense and $2,000 for a third offense.
Criminal penalties. It is not a crime to refuse testing, but a driver who refuses a lawful breath test can face additional penalties if convicted of DUI. A DUI that involves a breath test refusal will usually include higher fines, jail time, and driver’s license penalties.
Evidentiary uses. As test results are used to prove a DUI in court, some drivers refuse testing with the intent to limit the available evidence showing they were driving under the influence. However, the fact that a driver refused testing is admissible in court and can be considered by the trier of fact (the judge or jury) in deciding guilt.