Happy hour is over and now it is time to go home. You pay the tab and drive away from the bar. Suddenly, red and blue lights flash in your rearview mirror. Gulp. You had a couple of drinks, or more than a couple, but you feel fine to drive.
Your heart pounds as the police officer approaches the window. The officer demands your license and proof of insurance and asks if you had been drinking. You say, “Yes.” The officer asks you to exit the vehicle for a breath test. You say, “No.” Now what?
Other admissible evidence
The law does not force you to take a breath test but refusing does not mean police will not investigate you for driving under the influence. Police can consider other evidence to arrest you even if you do not register a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher:
- Driving performance. Swerving, ignoring turn signals or blowing red lights all raise DUI suspicions that can prompt an officer to pull you over.
- Physical appearance. Slurred speech, glassy eyes, odor of alcohol on your breath when answering questions.
- Failed field-sobriety tests. Stumbling through a heel-to-toe walk, hopping to keep balance or misstating the alphabet during standardized exams.
- Admitting you were drinking is a factor officers typically include in their arrest report.
Pennsylvania’s implied consent law means every licensed driver already has agreed to breath or blood testing if the police suspect they have been drinking. But if prosecutors cannot produce an illegal BAC, they might have a harder time proving you were driving under the influence. You certainly do not have to help law enforcement prove its case. However, you should understand the consequences for refusing chemical tests.
Your refusal might raise an officer’s suspicion and could result in having your license suspended for a year or more. You might also have to pay a fine to have your license reinstated. Those are civil penalties. They do not mean a crime has been committed.
If you face charges, prosecutors can use your refusal as evidence against you in court proceedings. And a DUI conviction that includes a chemical test refusal can result in can result in more jail time, higher fines and a longer driver’s license suspension.
Know your options
Driving after having only one drink is risky. It is easy to feel nervous and pressured during a traffic trop – even if you are within the legal limit. It is important that you know your rights and the possible consequences of your decisions.
When you lose driving privileges, the personal and professional ramifications can be enormous. You can challenge components of your arrest as part of a comprehensive and aggressive DUI defense strategy.