Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law

At social gatherings the presence of alcoholic beverages is common, and many people believe that they can have a couple of drinks and still be in reasonable condition to drive home. While consuming one or two drinks may not render you “legally” intoxicated, there is strong scientific evidence that even small amounts of alcohol adversely affect motor skills and reaction time. The old adage is true: drinking and driving simply do not mix.

With that said, what are your rights if you get stopped by the police after having a glass of wine or two? Should you agree to take a blood or breath alcohol test if asked to do so? Do you have the right to first speak to your attorney before responding to the police officer? Must you cooperate in a process that might incriminate you?

Pennsylvania law on this subject is clear: any person who drives a motor vehicle in this state is deemed to have given consent to chemical testing for the purpose of determining blood alcohol content. Some drivers are under the mistaken impression that they do not have to submit to chemical testing because of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination, or that they have the right to contact their attorney first before agreeing to chemical testing. Not so! Because the implied consent law and its accompanying license suspension provisions are civil, not criminal in nature, the famous “Miranda” rights warning procedure is not applicable.

The arresting police officer will typically advise you politely that your operating privileges will be suspended in the event you refuse to submit to chemical testing; the suspension period is a whopping one year even though you may not have had anything to drink! There are cases where drivers actually have been acquitted of the criminal charge of driving under the influence only to be faced with a one year license suspension because they did not cooperate by submitting to a blood alcohol test as required by law.

Remember, by driving in Pennsylvania you have already consented to submit to blood alcohol testing. You do not have a right to contact your lawyer before such testing, and the law requires you to cooperate if asked to submit to such a test. Because of the harsh penalty for refusing to submit to chemical testing, cooperation with the authorities is recommended.
– Curt Ward

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