When you get pulled over for suspicion of driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs, there is a process that begins that will determine if the officer charges you or not, and what those charges will be. In order for you to be prepared for it, and to know if the stop is legal or not, you need to understand what will happen during the stop.
A DUI checkpoint is a roadblock set up temporarily and manned by police officers for several hours, with the goal of deterring people who might be driving after drinking. Pennsylvania has strict laws about when, where, and how DUI checkpoints can be set up. Included in the guidelines is a method of avoiding discrimination claims; namely, by having a system based on numbers or patterns to decide who to stop and who to let through. Also in the rules, brief stops are dictated when the officer has no reason to suspect the driver has been drinking.
If a driver is stopped at one of these checkpoints and is suspected of having been drinking, he or she will be asked a series of questions. If, based on your answers, he thinks you are impaired, he will request the driver to proceed to the second section of the checkpoint, where field sobriety tests will be administered.
Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are always conducted before requesting the driver submit to a breath test and arresting him or her. The tests check coordination, motor skills, memory, and balance. Their purpose is to establish reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Several of these tests have been identified by the NHTSA—also known as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—as being most able to predict blood alcohol content (also known as BAC) impairment. Also called standardized field sobriety tests, these tasks include the one-leg stand test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and the walk-and-turn test. Other tests officers might ask are non-standardized and include things like reciting numbers backward, reciting the alphabet, or counting the number of fingers the officer is holding up.
Portable Breath Tests
Police officers in Pennsylvania are permitted to administer a portable breath test to a driver who they suspect is impaired. This device reads the driver’s breath and gives an estimate of how much blood alcohol is in the person’s system. The results of portable breath tests are not admissible in court, because the devices’ calibration requirements are inadequate. The only purpose one of these tests serves is to determine probable cause, which gives the officer a reason to arrest the driver.
Blood and Breath Tests
Once an officer feels he has probable cause to think a driver is impaired, he will arrest the driver and charge him or her with suspicion of DUI. After making the arrest, the driver will be taken to a local hospital and asked to submit to blood and breath tests. The tests will be administered by a trained phlebotomist or a licensed nurse. The medical professionals will have received specialized training in drawing blood that will be used in a criminal prosecution.
Implied Consent and Refusing DUI Tests
Refusing to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test is illegal. When you accepted a driver’s license, you agreed to allow police to give these tests upon their request. The arresting officer is required to warn a driver who refuses to submit to these tests that they face further charges for breaking a law. If the driver persists, he or she will be charged with violating implied consent, and will lose their driving privileges for one year for the first offense and up to 18 months for subsequent offenses.
A DUI arrest does not mean you are automatically convicted. A Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney with the right training and experience will help you get your DUI charges reduced or dismissed. If you have been arrested for DUI, call Sean Logue and his associates at Logue Law. Their dedication and thorough understanding of Pennsylvania’s DUI laws will guide you to the best possible outcome for you. They can be reached 24/7 at (412) 612-2210 or (412) 612-2210, or you can contact them online here. Initial consultations are always free. Logue Law serves Pittsburgh, PA, Ohio, and West Virginia.
- Breath Tests
- DUI / OUI Blood Test
- Field Sobriety Tests in Pennsylvania
- Pittsburgh Roadside Checkpoints
- Refusing to Submit to Blood Alcohol Testing