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Refusal to take sobriety test can result in penalty

December 28, 2011

Photo by Colin Deppen

With New Year's Eve nearly here, police will be out in force and on the lookout for suspected drunk drivers. Those who get behind the wheel after having imbibed one too many holiday spirits should know that under Pennsylvania's Implied Consent Law, they have already agreed to submit to a law enforcement-administered sobriety test if they are pulled over, something many people may not know.
Pennsylvania's Implied Consent law, similar to laws on the books in many other states, takes effect the moment drivers obtain their license. Under this law, the act of becoming a licensed driver implicitly entails that the individual has thereby volunteered or provided their consent to undergo breath, blood, and/or urine testing as requested by a law enforcement officer who has reasonable suspicion of the driver's impairment.
People have the right to refuse a police-administered field sobriety test and/or drug and alcohol test, and samples cannot be obtained through coercion or force. However, a first-time refusal can result in a one-year suspension of driving privileges, even if a driver is found not guilty of driving under the influence. According to the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT), "The law covering chemical testing says you have agreed to take such a test — just by being licensed to drive in Pennsylvania. If the police arrest you for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and you refuse to take one (1) or more chemical tests of breath, blood or urine, your driving privilege will be automatically suspended for one (1) year. This suspension is in addition to the suspension imposed for a conviction or Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for driving while under the influence.

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