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What happens if I refuse a BAC chemical test?

Every year in Pennsylvania, thousands of people face impaired driving accusations. In 2018 alone, law enforcement in the state made more than 52,000 such arrests (a drop from the 54,000 the year prior.) It’s very likely that most of these arrests, if not all of them, included a chemical test to measure the individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC).

Could a driver simply refuse to do one of these tests? Sure – but they may want to prepare for immediate penalties or a swift legal battle.

Consequences of refusing a test

Pennsylvania, like every other U.S. state, has an implied consent law. This means by choosing to drive, operate or control a motor vehicle, you are consenting to a breath or blood test if requested by a law enforcement officer who suspects you of driving under the influence (DUI).

Technically, a driver can refuse to take these tests. Doing so results in a couple of immediate penalties:

  • A license suspension of at least 12 months
  • A “restoration fee” of up to $2,000.

In addition, the fact you refused a chemical test can be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding.

These are civil penalties, separate from the outcome of any criminal case that might stem from the pullover.

A DUI conviction could tack on:

  • Prison time
  • Fines
  • Required safety training.

However, you have options to fight back.

Challenging the penalties

If you are arrested and accused of DUI, and you refused to take a chemical test, you do have an opportunity to fight back. You can file an appeal, though you have to do so quickly – within 30 days of being notified of your license suspension. You may want to consider hiring a defense attorney to help your case at this point, as they can help determine the best appeal strategy to minimize the arrest’s impact on your life.

At the hearing, yourself and your lawyer may consider challenging:

  • Whether the law enforcement officer had valid reasonable cause to make the traffic stop
  • Whether the officer followed the correct procedures, including notifying you of penalties for refusing a chemical test
  • Whether the test results, if later obtained, were accurate

If you win the appeal, it means you avoid license suspension and the major impact it could have on your life.