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Breath Test Refusal Attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Part of becoming a licensed driver in Pennsylvania means you inherently consent to provide a breath test if you are suspected of driving under the influence (DUI). Refusing to participate in a breath test, as requested by law enforcement, can lead to immediate administrative penalties, including the suspension of your driving license, and can be used as evidence in court.  

As an experienced criminal defense attorney, I am committed to providing you with the knowledge and support you need if you are charged with refusing a breath test. I understand Pennsylvania's DUI and consent laws, especially in cases of breath test refusals, and I am committed to defending your rights and working toward the most favorable outcome for your case. 

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my firm proudly serves clients throughout Allegheny County, Butler County, Washington County, Westmoreland County, and Western Pennsylvania. 

What Is a Breath Test?

A breath test is a chemical test used by law enforcement that is designed to measure the alcohol concentration in a person's bloodstream. This non-invasive procedure allows law enforcement to assess whether a driver is impaired. A driver suspected of driving under the influence provides a breath sample into a breathalyzer, which calculates their blood alcohol content.  

In Pennsylvania, drivers over the age of 21 with a BAC of 0.08% or higher are considered legally intoxicated. For commercial drivers, the legal limit is 0.04%, and for those under the age of 21, a BAC of 0.02% or above can result in DUI charges based on the state's Zero Tolerance Law.  

There are two primary types of breath tests used by law enforcement officers: 

  • Preliminary Breath Test (PBT): Used during traffic stops for pre-arrest screening. Its results, while quick, are not usually admissible in court for convicting DUIs in Pennsylvania. It's primarily used to establish probable cause for an arrest. 

  • Evidentiary Breath Test: Conducted at a police station with advanced equipment, providing a BAC reading that can serve as evidence in DUI prosecutions. 

These tests are integral to DUI enforcement by promoting public safety, deterring impaired driving, and apprehending offenders. However, when if a driver refuses a breath test or if law enforcement suspects drug use, other methods such as blood or urine tests, may be employed.

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What Is a Breath Test Refusal?

A breath test refusal occurs when a driver declines to provide a breath sample for analysis after lawfully being asked by a police officer to undergo a breathalyzer test. This refusal can take place during a traffic stop or at a police station following an arrest for suspected driving under the influence (DUI). 

The right of law enforcement to request a breath test comes from Pennsylvania's "implied consent" laws, which drivers agree to as part of obtaining their driver’s license. In Pennsylvania, the refusal to submit to a breath test when lawfully requested by law enforcement triggers automatic penalties under these laws, regardless of whether the driver is convicted of a DUI. 

This refusal might occur for various reasons, including: 

  • A misunderstanding of one's rights 

  • Fear of providing evidence for a DUI charge 

  • Believing that penalties for refusal might be less severe than those for a DUI conviction 

Drivers must understand that a refusal brings its own set of legal consequences, including license suspension and potential use in court to infer impairment. Understanding the serious implications of a breath test refusal is essential for any driver facing such a situation. 

Understanding Implied Consent

In Pennsylvania, the concept of implied consent is critical in the enforcement of DUI laws. By obtaining a driver's license in Pennsylvania, drivers automatically give their implied consent to submit to chemical testing (including breath, blood, or urine tests) if they are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. 

When a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe a driver is under the influence, the officer can request the driver to undergo a chemical test. Refusal to comply with this request can result in serious consequences due to the implied consent law.  

The implied consent law affirms the state's effort to combat impaired driving. Once a driver is lawfully arrested for DUI, the requirement to comply with chemical testing is a legal obligation. 

Penalties for Breath Test Refusal

In Pennsylvania, refusing a breath test has serious consequences, incurring administrative penalties that are separate from any potential penalties resulting from a DUI conviction. They include: 

  • Automatic suspension of your driver’s license: For a first refusal, this suspension can last for 12 months, and for subsequent refusals, the suspension period increases. 

  • Mandatory ignition interlock device: Depending on the case, those who refuse a breath test might be required to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle(s). 

  • Use in court: Breath test refusal can be mentioned in court and potentially viewed as evidence of guilt, which could impact the outcome of a DUI case. 

The penalties for refusing a breathalyzer or other chemical tests are applied regardless of whether the driver was impaired at the time of the stop. This strict approach underlines Pennsylvania's commitment to discouraging DUI offenses and ensuring public safety on the roadways. 

What Happens If I Refuse a Breath Test and I'm Charged With a DUI?

By refusing a breath test, you will be subjected to the penalties associated with breath test refusal under the implied consent law. If you are later charged and convicted of a DUI, you will also face additional DUI charges.  

These charges carry their own set of penalties, which might include hefty fines, longer license suspension, community service, DUI education programs, and possibly jail time, depending on the specifics of your case, including whether it’s a first offense or a subsequent one. 

Given these considerations, seeking experienced legal representation is crucial. A knowledgeable DUI attorney can evaluate your case, advise on the best course of action, and work to mitigate the consequences of both the refusal and the DUI charge itself. 

Defenses Against Breath Test Refusal Charges

At Natalie Snyder Law, I offer various defense strategies that can be used to combat breath test refusal charges.  

  • Challenging the traffic stop: Arguing that the officer did not have a legitimate reason to stop the driver or suspect them of DUI, and therefore, the request for a breath test was unjustified. 

  • Improper test administration: Claiming that the breath test was not administered properly, or that the device was not maintained or calibrated properly. 

  • Inadequate advisement: Claiming the advisement of the consequences for refusal was improperly administered, violating protocols and the driver's rights. 

  • Medical conditions: A defense can be based on medical conditions that prevent the driver from completing a breath test, such as respiratory issues. 

  • Misunderstanding the request: Arguing that due to language barriers, confusion, or lack of clear communication by the officer, the driver did not intentionally refuse the test. 

How Can My Firm Help?

My law firm stands out by connecting directly with our clients, ensuring they receive personalized legal advice and representation. I believe in empowering my clients by equipping them with the necessary knowledge and resources to propel their defense forward and boldly advocating for them on their behalf. 

From the initial administrative hearing to criminal court proceedings, I approach each case with focus and compassion. These situations can take an emotional toll, but you're not alone in this journey. I'm right by your side, offering guidance and reassurance every step of the way.

Breath Test Refusal Attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

At Natalie Snyder Law, I understand the challenges posed by Pennsylvania's implied consent laws and the steep penalties for non-compliance. With over 20 years of experience, I am dedicated to crafting impactful legal defenses, prioritizing your rights, and seeking favorable resolutions. If you're facing a breath test refusal charge in Pennsylvania, contact me to schedule a consultation and begin building your defense today.