It can happen to just about anyone. You go out to dinner or stop at a friend’s house. You have a couple of beers or a glass or two of wine. On the way home, you get stopped by police, who ask if you have had anything to drink. When you answer honestly, they ask you to submit to field sobriety tests, or may immediately request that you take a breathalyzer or blood alcohol. If you haven’t been charged yet, what can you do? If you agree to take the test and your blood alcohol exceeds the legal limit, what are your options?
If you haven’t been arrested yet, but have just been pulled over, the first question you should ask is why the police officer made the traffic stop. Law enforcement officers must have probable cause to pull you over. You must have committed a traffic violation or the officer must have reasonable belief that you have violated the law. You don’t need to get into a debate with the officer over whether or not there was good cause to pull you over, but your attorney will want this information.
If the police officer requests a field sobriety or blood alcohol test, can you legally refuse? The answer is yes. Pennsylvania has an implied consent law, which states that anyone who operates a motor vehicle on the roadways in the state impliedly consents to chemical testing to determine blood alcohol content. Even so, you still have the right to refuse to take the test. However, the consequences of refusal can be significant. You will lose your driving privileges for a minimum of one year, and your charge will be placed in a higher tier for purposes of sentencing, which means your punishment will likely be more severe.
If you take a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test and fail, you still have rights. Don’t think that you should just plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court. Your lawyer can still examine the facts and circumstances of your arrest, to determine whether your constitutional rights were violated. If the police lacked probable cause to stop you, or failed to advise you of your rights when taking you into custody, some or all evidence obtained may be inadmissible in court. Furthermore, field sobriety and BAC tests may have been improperly conducted, or the test results may have been compromised.
At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we prove a free initial consultation to every client. Contact us by e-mail or call us at 717-233-5292 to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys. We speak Spanish and understand the impact a criminal charge can have on your efforts to become or remain a permanent citizen.