Under Pennsylvania law, anyone with who is driving in the state – in exchange for the privilege to do so – is deemed to have consented to a chemical test to determine blood alcohol content or the presence of a controlled substance. This is known as “implied consent.” What it means is that if a law enforcement officer has “reasonable grounds” to suspect that a motorist is driving under the influence, and may be charged with DUI due to use of alcohol or drugs, the officer can request that the motorist submit to a chemical test.
Refusal to submit to a test in Pennsylvania can result in a six to 12-month driver’s license suspension – or more, if the driver has previously refused or been convicted of DUI. There might also be a fee of up to $2,000 to restore the privileges at the end of the suspension. However, just because a driver refuses to submit to a chemical test does not mean that he or she will not be prosecuted for DUI. To the contrary, the test refusal will usually be admissible as evidence in any DUI trial.
If convicted of DUI, a motorist who refused a chemical test will not only face a driver’s license suspension and a restoration fee, but will also likely receive probation or jail time and be required to pay a fine. It is important to note, however, that law enforcement officers are not allowed stop a driver for no reason. They must have reasonable suspicion to make the stop and to conclude that the driver may be under the influence.
Moreover, an officer cannot demand that a motorist take any test without a warrant or consent. The officer must have consent to administer any test or a warrant to administer a blood test without consent, according to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. Implied consent laws and DUI cases, while common, can be nuanced and complicated. Anyone who has been arrested on suspicion of DUI will likely need to consider their criminal defense options.
Source: Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, Title 75, section 1547, “Chemical testing to determine amount of alcohol or controlled substance.,” accessed May 14, 2018