If you are pulled over on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the DUI traffic stop process will begin. It's important you understand what will ensue during this stop so you can be prepared, and understand if it is conducted lawfully or unlawfully in accordance with Pennsylvania law. For the purposes of this article, I will provide you with some insight about DUI tests and how they will be conducted before and after an arrest.
DUI checkpoints are marked roadblocks that are temporarily occupied by police officers for several hours at a time. They serve as a visual deterrent for impaired drivers. In order for a checkpoint to be deemed lawful, authorities must adhere to strict guidelines under Pennsylvania law. Some of these guidelines include having an established numerical system or pattern to determine who gets stopped to avoid claims of discrimination, maximizing the visibility of all checkpoints, and to implement brief stops in the absence of reasonable suspicion.
If a suspected driver is stopped at a DUI checkpoint, an officer will ask you several questions. If this officer suspects that you are impaired based on this brief encounter, then he will ask you to drive to the second phase of the checkpoint to administer field sobriety tests.
Field Sobriety Tests
It is routine for police officers to conduct field sobriety tests prior to the request for a breath test and an arrest. These tests challenge a suspected driver's coordination, balance, memory, and motor skills to establish reasonable suspicion of alcohol or drug impairment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified several that are supposedly most predictive of blood alcohol content (BAC) impairment. These are known as standardized field sobriety tests. They include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test. Some officers have also been known to administer non-standardized field sobriety, like asking drivers to recite the ABCs, to count fingers that they're holding up, or to recite numbers backward.
Portable Breath Test
Much like its name suggests, Pennsylvania officers may administer a portable breath test to suspected DUI drivers. It is used to detect a rough estimate of a driver's blood alcohol content level. Due to inadequate calibration requirements, the results of portable breath tests are not admissible in court like blood or official breathalyzer tests. So basically, the only purpose it serves is to give an officer probable cause to arrest a driver.
Blood Tests / Breath tests
If probable cause has been established, an officer will make an arrest on suspicion of a DUI. Following this arrest, drivers will be transported to a local hospital where they will be asked to submit a blood test or breath test. Each test will be administered by a licensed nurse or phlebotomist who has been trained to draw blood for purposes of criminal prosecutions.
Refusing Tests - Implied Consent Law
Through the enforcement of Pennsylvania's “Implied Consent” law, it is illegal for state motorists to refuse taking blood, breath, or urine tests following a lawful arrest. Essentially, this law dictates that by driving on state roadways, drivers implicitly agree to testing to determine their BAC upon the request of an officer. Once a suspected driver is arrested, an officer has an obligation to warn them that if they refuse testing, they are breaking the law and subject to consequences. If, after being warned, a driver still makes the choice to refuse, they will be charged with a violation of implied consent. Refusing DUI testing carries consequences of a license suspension for one year. For subsequent offenses, drivers are facing an 18-month license suspension.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
If you've been arrested for a DUI, it does not guarantee a conviction. With the help of a skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, you can get these charges reduced or even dismissed. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today for help.