When a person is suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) in Pennsylvania, he or she may be required to take a blood, breath, or urine test. These chemical tests are meant to determine if a person is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. However, these tests are often very inaccurate and can lead to false positives.
With the help of experienced criminal defense attorney David J. Cohen at your side every step of the way, you can know that you are represented by an attorney who understands Pennsylvania DUI laws and can defend your case.
DUI Chemical Tests
Chemical tests that are designed to determine the amount of an intoxicating substance in your body are often inaccurate. This can be true even when the test was performed correctly because the device itself is faulty. These tests are even more inaccurate when the test itself is performed or administered in a way that is different than the proper procedure.
Breath tests are taken in two ways:
- on the side of the road, and
- back at the station.
The roadside breathalyzer test is designed to help law enforcement officers determine if there is probable cause for an arrest. These are notoriously inaccurate but are not the "end-all" in terms of evidence.
Instead, the breath test that occurs at the station is designed to be used as evidence against you at trial. However, even this test can be off by 0.02%, which can create a false positive indicator of intoxication, when you were not actually under the influence.
Breath tests are not able to detect the presence of drugs, only alcohol. Other chemical tests are required to detect the presence of drugs.
Blood tests can be used to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) or the presence of drugs in your system. However, blood tests are required to be taken within very specific guidelines that are designed to ensure the "accuracy" of the test as well as your health. When these tests are not properly administered, the results will not be accurate and can be suppressed from evidence.
The qualifications of the person taking the blood and performing the test can also be challenged in order to present a defense to your Pennsylvania DUI charges.
Urine tests are generally considered the least reliable form of DUI chemical testing. This is true for both alcohol and drugs. When the prosecutor relies on urine evidence to prove you were intoxicated, the results can be challenged in court to show the jury you were not intoxicated.
Urine samples must be properly labeled and stored, and there are other specific requirements that, if not followed, may result in the inability of the Commonwealth to use the evidence against you.
Refusing Chemical Tests - Pennsylvania's Implied Consent Law
Under Pennsylvania's implied consent laws, a driver is required to submit to a chemical test of breath, blood, or urine. In fact, every driver of Pennsylvania roads is implied to have already consented just by driving.
Under the law, the arresting officer must advise you that while you are technically permitted to refuse to the testing, there are consequences to refusal. Law enforcement is required to advise you that if you refuse, your driver's license will be suspended.
If a person refuses to consent to testing for the first time, his or her license will be suspended for 12 months. If a person refuses to consent to chemical testing for a second or subsequent time, the driver's license will instead be suspended for 18 months.
Another problem that can arise is that if you refuse to consent to the breath test, it will be assumed that your BAC was in the highest tier, and you will be charged accordingly.
The Warning Itself
Please be advised that you are under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance in violation of Section 3802 of the Vehicle Code. I am requesting that you submit to a chemical test of blood, breath or urine. It is my duty as a police officer to inform you that if you refuse to submit to the chemical test, your operating privilege will be suspended for at least 12 months, and up to 18 months, if you have prior refusals or have been previously sentenced for driving under the influence. In addition, if you refuse to submit to the chemical test, and you are convicted of or plead to violating Section 3802(a)(1) (relating to impaired driving) of the Vehicle Code, because of your refusal, you will be subject to more severe penalties set forth in Section 3804(c) (relating to penalties) of the Vehicle Code, the same as if you would be convicted of driving with the highest rate of alcohol, which include a minimum of 72 consecutive hours in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000.00, up to a maximum of five years in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000. It is also my duty as a police officer to inform you that you have no right to speak with an attorney or anyone else before deciding whether to submit to testing and any request to speak with an attorney or anyone else after being provided these warnings or remaining silent when asked to submit to chemical testing will constitute a refusal, resulting in the suspension of your operating privilege and other enhanced criminal sanctions if you are convicted of violating Section 3802(a) of the Vehicle Code.
As is clearly seen by reading it, the warning is long and full of complicated legal language. It is often difficult for people to understand what the warning is even supposed to tell them.
Challenging the DUI Chemical Tests
To challenge the chemical tests, your attorney can:
- present evidence to the jury about the inaccuracy of the tests;
- file a motion to suppress based upon improperly obtained evidence;
- show that a person did not refuse to consent to the tests; or
- prove that the tests were not administered according to the proper procedure.
With the right defense, you can protect your constitutional rights.
Consult an Experienced Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney
If you face DUI charges in Pennsylvania, there are defenses you can raise in order to protect yourself against prosecution. Chemical tests are known to be inaccurate and a successful defense can reduce or even dismiss your charges.