If you have been pulled over for suspicious driving behavior, the officer who stopped you will attempt to prove that you have been drinking or that you are too intoxicated to safely drive.
While such DUI traffic stops are scary and may intimidate you (especially if you are a little buzzed or had a drink earlier in the evening), you do have rights, and DUI defense attorneys in State College recommend that you exercise those rights from the very start as soon as you see the flashing lights behind you. A DUI traffic stop is not an arrest, and even if you are charged with drunk driving, you still have a chance to defend yourself.
In order for a drunk driving arrest to lead to a conviction, there must be sufficient evidence. An officer may observe you driving suspiciously, whether you are weaving in and out of lanes, driving too slow or fast, failing to use your turn signals or simply driving erratically enough to warrant a closer look.
This observation is legitimate grounds for the officer to initiate a traffic stop - as is any maintenance issue, such as a broken taillight or expired license tags - and the officer may begin testing you for sobriety. However, an observation only goes so far in building a case, and the officer will need to provide evidence that you have been drinking or using drugs in order to convict you.
Chemical testing is considered the most accurate way to determine whether a person has been drinking, and if they have, how much alcohol they have consumed. A blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher is considered too drunk to drive, so if a driver blows any number higher than that, he or she can be charged with drunk driving.
However, chemical testing is not foolproof, and State College DUI defense attorneys say that sometimes, the data collected can be used against you even if you were not driving drunk.
Implied Consent Laws
Pennsylvania has an implied consent law in which every person who drives or operates a vehicle within the state agrees to submit to chemical testing in the event of a DUI traffic stop. An officer must have "reasonable grounds" to suspect that a driver is intoxicated, driving on a license that has been suspended due to DUI charges or driving without an ignition interlock device as required by law.
If there is a reason to suspect drunk driving, the officer can invoke the implied consent law and ask the driver to submit to a Breathalyzer or blood test to determine the blood alcohol content.
If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, the officer cannot force you to take it. However, under the implied consent law, your license will be subject to suspension, and if you are convicted of the DUI charges stemming from the traffic stop, the charges will be elevated to the third or highest degree. The officer is required to state this at the time of your refusal -- if he does not, you can challenge the validity of your stop.
Refusing to take a chemical test may result in immediate penalties but may help your case overall, DUI defense attorneys say. Although you may be charged with a DUI, the lack of physical evidence from a chemical test can work for you in your defense. At Rehmeyer & Allat, our DUI attorneys represent anyone who has been charged with drunk driving in Pennsylvania.