What if you’re driving through the Poconos or another NE Pennsylvania area when a police officer pulls you over in a traffic stop and asks you to step out of your vehicle? Keep in mind that this is usually an indication that the officer suspects you of intoxication. Do you know your rights well enough to make informed decisions during a DUI stop?
Following a request to exit your vehicle, it’s common for a police officer making a DUI stop to ask you to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening. This screening might include a roadside breath test. He or she might also ask you to take one or more field sobriety tests. To exercise and defend your rights, there are several things to know.
You’re not obligated to take DUI field sobriety or breath tests in a traffic stop
A key factor to remember when you are exercising your rights during a Pennsylvania DUI stop is that you’re not obligated to comply with a request to take preliminary screening tests during a traffic stop. This means that you can politely refuse if a patrol officer asks you to take a breath test or field sobriety test on the roadside. The police cannot arrest or penalize you in any way for refusing.
PAS devices are unreliable
You’ll also want to be aware that preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) devices are known to be unreliable when they register positive for alcohol on a person’s breath. In fact, many substances or health conditions can cause a PAS device to register positive, even if you have not consumed any alcohol prior to driving your vehicle. A PAS device is different from a chemical Breathalyzer test, which law enforcement administers following a DUI arrest.
Implied consent laws pertain to a post-arrest chemical testing
When you signed your Pennsylvania driver’s license, you consented to taking a Breathalyzer, blood or urine test upon request following a DUI arrest. If a police officer takes you into custody, and you refuse such tests, the court will suspend your driver’s license. However, this is not the same as refusing a PAS test during a traffic stop. As mentioned earlier, you are under no obligation to take a roadside breath test or field sobriety test.
Facing DUI charges in Pennsylvania
Being arrested and charged with DUI in Pennsylvania does not necessarily mean you will face conviction in court. In fact, if evidence exists to challenge the results of a Breathalyzer, or law enforcement did not follow proper protocol when administering the test, you may be able to request a dismissal of your case. In such a case, you might never have to go to court at all. If your case does go to trial, it is best to review state laws ahead of time and to learn as much as you can about strategies and options for a strong defense.