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Can you get convicted of a DUI if you refuse a breath test?

You were driving home and got pulled over by law enforcement. For whatever reason, the officer stated that he or she suspected you had been drinking or possibly doing illegal drugs. You get asked to step out of the vehicle for a roadside test. You comply, and you believe that you passed the test.

Then, the officer asks you to take a breathalyzer test. Maybe you've read about them being wrong for others, or perhaps you are worried that a medical condition, like diabetes, could impact the outcome. You decide you want to decline to take the test.

All of a sudden, you're under arrest. You get taken to the police station, processed, searched and booked into a holding cell for the night. Then you learn in the morning that you're getting charged with both a driving under the influence (DUI) offense and charge for refusing to take the test.

Understanding implied consent

Everyone who drives a vehicle on Pennsylvania public roadways is subject to basic traffic laws. One of those laws is the implied consent law. Essentially, by applying for and accepting a driver's license in the state of Pennsylvania, you give consent for future chemical tests to determine your intoxication or sobriety. The law is very clear that these tests must be administered within two hours of your driving. In the case of roadside breath tests, the officer must have monitored you for at least 20 minutes before administering the test.

If you refuse to take a test as requested by a law enforcement officer who has reasonable suspicion that you are under the influence, it could result in secondary charges, beyond a charge of driving under the influence. That means you'll be facing additional penalties. Refusing to take a test can result in a year of license suspension for a first offense and 18 months of suspension for second and third offenses.

Refusing a breath test won't stop a DUI charge

You might think you're beating the system by refusing to take a breath test. After all, even if they take your license away, the penalties are still less than those involved with a DUI. However, refusing that test won't stop the state from charging you with a DUI or from convicting you.

In fact, refusing the test can and often is used as evidence in DUI trials. While you could contest the validity of a breath test's results, you can't contest the admission of your refusal. That, combined with the testimony of the officer and any recordings in a police vehicle or while in custody, could result in a DUI conviction, even without chemical evidence of impairment.

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Erie, PA 16501

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