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Drunk Driving Tests

Scranton drunk driving charge attorneys explain the various tests and implications

If a police officer stops you for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol in Pennsylvania, you may be asked to take a test to determine if you are drunk. The rules regarding DUI tests in Pennsylvania can be confusing.

Many people believe such tests are mandatory, but the laws vary widely from one test to another. In many cases, you have the right to refuse to take such tests without fear of being arrested or facing any other consequences associated with DUI charges.

Convictions for drunk driving can have serious consequences, including loss of license, higher insurance premiums, fines and even jail time. If you or someone you know was arrested, contact an experienced Scranton DUI criminal defense attorney who understands the laws concerning drunk driving tests in Pennsylvania. Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano may be able to help you get the results you need.

What type of drunk driving tests are administered in Pennsylvania?

There are several different types of DUI tests in the Keystone State. Click on the following links to read more about some of the most common tests administered by police officers and your rights concerning agreeing to take these tests:

"What should I do if I fail a drunk driving test in Pennsylvania?"

Contact our law firm as soon as possible. We may be able to help you and work to rectify the situation as soon as possible. Just because you "failed" a drunk driving test does not mean that you are guilty.

Many drunk driving tests, especially field sobriety tests, are notoriously unreliable. The same applies to breathalyzer tests and even blood tests in certain circumstances. We can thoroughly investigate your test results, including how the test was administered. We can explore all the legal options available to you.

Changes to DUI laws in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, there have been recent changes to the law, where a tiered approach to DUI enforcement now focuses on treatment for first-time offenders. In some instances, you might be able to enroll in Pennsylvania's ARD program for first-time offenders and have your criminal record wiped clean.

Our legal professionals help clients explore options so we can fight the best approach to getting the results they need.

Field Sobriety Tests

Some police officers in Pennsylvania ask drivers to perform a field sobriety test to determine if the driver is intoxicated. The results of such tests are frequently challenged in court. Another thing many people might not realize is that field sobriety tests are voluntary in Pennsylvania. There is no penalty for refusing to take one. The three most common field sobriety tests are:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) - The police officer administering this test is looking to see if the driver's eyes move involuntarily. In order to observe abnormal eye movement the officer will ask the driver to follow a light with their eyes without moving their head.
  • One Leg Stand (OLS) - Even drivers who are perfectly sober often have a hard time successfully completing this test. As part of the test, the officer instructs the driver to stand on one leg and raise the other foot 6 inches in the air and holding the raised foot in place for roughly 30 seconds.
  • Walk and Turn (WAT) - Perhaps the best known field sobriety test, the name of this test describes this seemingly simple test which many sober people often have a hard time completing. The driver must walk heel to toe in a straight line, turn around and walk back in the same manner.

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Breathalyzer Tests

Unlike field sobriety tests, Pennsylvania drivers must take a breathalyzer test if they are asked to do so by a police officer. Breathalyzers measure a person's Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).  If you refuse to take a roadside breath test, your driver's licenses will automatically be suspended for one year or more. Penalties vary depending on several factors, including your BAC and if you have previous DUI convictions.

Breathalyzer test results frequently have been called into question by defense attorneys due to past inaccurate test results. There are many reasons why breathalyzers produce inaccurate results. The reasons include:

  • Acid reflux/heartburn
  • Burping
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Diet
  • Diabetes
  • Holding your breath

Another reason why breathalyzer tests are inaccurate is because the person administering the test sometimes makes a mistake. Common mistakes include improper handling of evidence and operator error. Defective equipment can also be to blame for inaccurate breathalyzer test results.

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Blood Tests

Most judges accept blood tests as an accurate reading of someone's BAC reading. That's why many police departments in Pennsylvania administer this test in addition or as an alternative to a breathalyzer test.

Even so, mistakes can occur and some blood test results are rejected in court. Some of the reasons why BAC blood test results are considered inaccurate include:

  • Blood tests given to people with diabetes
  • Alcohol on skin due to swab before test influenced results
  • Improperly stored blood sample

Never assume your blood test is accurate. Always ask to have your blood sample retested and have someone review whether the test was administered according to Pennsylvania's DUI laws. Our lawyers know how to conduct such investigations and want to help. Contact us today.

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Do I Have a Right to Refuse to Take Tests?

Depends on the test. You have a right to refuse to take a field sobriety test without being punished. Such tests are strictly voluntary. However, there are consequences if you refuse to take one of three chemical tests (breath, blood or urine) to determine your BAC.

In Pennsylvania, if you refuse to take a chemical test to determine your BAC, your driver's license will automatically be suspended for 12 months for your first DUI offense; 18 months for your second DUI offense; and 18 months for your third DUI offense.

If you refused to take a field sobriety test or chemical test and have been charged with DUI, contact our law firm as soon as possible. We want to learn more about your case and explain all the legal options available to you.

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Implied Consent Law

According to Pennsylvania's implied consent law, you must take a blood, breath or urine test to determine your BAC if a police officer arrests you because the officer suspects you were driving under the influence of alcohol.

Specific rules exist concerning when such tests must be administered. The law states that a chemical test to determine your BAC must be given within 2 hours of your arrest. Other requirements also exist concerning when and how such tests must be given under the implied consent law.

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