Pennsylvania's DUI Implied Consent Laws: Refusing a Blood, Breath, or Urine Test

Learn about Pennsylvania's DUI implied consent laws and the penalties for a refusal.

Pennsylvania "implied consent" law requires you to take a blood, breath, or urine test if you are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence. Basically, the idea is that by driving on Pennsylvania roadways, you impliedly agree to chemical testing for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content (BAC). The officer is supposed to conduct the test within two hours of driving. And if the officer asks you to take a breath test, he or she has to observe you for 20 minutes prior to testing.

If you choose to take a test and if you are later convicted of a DUI, you may be required to pay for whatever test the officer asked you to take. After taking the test at the direction of the officer, you have the right to additional tests taken by a medical professional of your choice.

Also, the implied consent law might require that you submit to testing even if you were not actually caught driving. It's enough if you were operating or have actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. In Pennsylvania, the terms “operating” and “actual physical control” are basically the same. They generally mean that the driver is in the vehicle and could make it move, even if the driver is not trying to move the care when the officer finds him. For example, suppose a driver who realizes he has had too much to drink pulls over to sleep it off. He leaves the keys in the ignition and the radio on. The officer finds him slumped over the wheel, wakes him up, smells alcohol, and arrests him. In this situation, the officer's observations will likely be enough to get a conviction in court.

Refusing to Take the Test

First Offense

Second Offense

Third Offense

1-year license suspension and $500 license reinstatement fee

18-month license suspension and $1,000 license reinstatement fee

18-month license suspension and $2,000 license reinstatement fee

Once you are arrested, the officer should tell you that your license will be suspended if you refuse a test. He or she should also tell you that if you are later convicted of a DUI—even without the results from a chemical test—you will have to accept penalties for both the refusal and for the DUI. However, if you refuse testing, the officer typically cannot make you take a test. And, whether you choose to take a test or not, you have a right to a hearing to challenge your suspension.

Refusing DUI chemical testing can lead to penalties that are more serious than penalties for a regular DUI conviction. For your first refusal, the suspension will last for one year. For your second or subsequent refusal, or if you have had a prior DUI conviction, the suspension will last for 18 months. At your hearing, you could ask the court to let you have limited driving privileges during your suspension, but you would have to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your car.

Should You Refuse to Take a Mandatory DUI Test in Pennsylvania?

It usually does not help you to refuse to take a blood, breath, or urine test when you are arrested. For a first DUI in Pennsylvania, you will be on probation for six months, have to pay a fine of $300 and attend highway safety school, and need to submit to drug or alcohol treatment requirements. The judge could also sentence you to up to 150 hours of community service. These consequences are more severe than a year-long license suspension for refusal. Still, refusing the test does not guarantee that you won’t be convicted—you could be found guilty of a DUI even without proof of your BAC level. In fact, the prosecution can use your refusal against you by arguing that you refused the test because you knew that you were intoxicated and guilty of DUI.

Get Help With Your DUI

If you have been arrested on a DUI charge in Pennsylvania, get help from an experienced DUI attorney. A DUI conviction comes with serious consequences—especially if the incident involved injury to people or property or if you have prior DUI convictions. An experienced DUI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and let you know if you have any viable defenses.

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