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Refusing a Chemical Test

Luff Strenfel LLP April 3, 2018

What Is a Chemical Test?

When we refer to a chemical test in the criminal world, we are talking about a blood test or a breathalyzer. These are the common tests used to determine whether a person has been drinking or using drugs, after being arrested for the suspicion of DUI. These tests are generally conducted after you have been pulled over, made to perform standard field sobriety tests, placed in handcuffs and put into the back of a police car.

Blood Tests

Blood tests are generally conducted at a local hospital, near the scene of the arrest. You will be taken to the hospital and read “your rights” and will be required to sign a sheet confirming you understand what the police officer has told you. Generally these warnings include:

  • implied consent law

  • you have no right to attorney

  • if you refuse your license will be suspended for at least 12 months, 18 months if you have a prior DUI or refusal

The most important thing to remember is you must understand these warnings and then decide whether to give blood or to “refuse.” Many of my clients always ask, “should I refuse?” I do not have a good answer to that question as every case is different. Of course, if you refuse a blood test the police and commonwealth will have no record of a BAC(blood alcohol content) nor will they have evidence of controlled substances in your blood. However, by refusing you will be subjected to a license suspension of at least 12 months, which can cause a person substantial inconvenience. For more help on this issue and issue on DUIs in general Contact LHS Law firm.

Breathalyzer Test

The other common form of chemical test is a breathalyzer. This not to be confused with a “preliminary breath test” or PBT. A PBT is given before you are arrested. It is generally a handheld device used by police officers to gather more evidence of intoxication. The results of a PBT are generally inadmissible. A breathalyzer will normally be conducted after you have been arrested and transported to police barracks to take the official “breathalyzer.”

In the state of Pennsylvania a breathalyzer must be conducted by a certified operator. This is normally a highly trained police officer who has completed the required classes to become certified in giving a Breathalyzer. The machine the police officer is using will most likely be calibrated according to Pennsylvania’s rules and standards. It is for this reason that the results of this breathalyzer are admissible as long as the Commonwealth of Pennslyvania can show that the person who administered the test is certified, the machine has been properly calibrated, and machine is working correctly prior to you blowing into the machine.

Before you being to blow, the officer will read you your implied consent warnings. These warnings include:

  • Implied consent language

  • no right to an attorney

  • if you refuse your license will be suspended

  • if you refuse you will be subject to the highest penalties under DUI law

That last part is very important to anyone charged with DUI – Refusal in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth of Pennsylvania is allowed, under title 75 1547 to enhance the penalties on a DUI charge if you refuse a breathalyzer. Accordingly, if you are charged with a lowest tier DUI, the commonwealth will most likely add highest tier when you appear at your prelim.