Implied consent and driver’s license suspension

A Pennsylvania law enforcement officer who pulls a motorist over on suspicion of intoxication cannot force the motorist to take a breathalyzer test, but refusing to do so can get one into greater trouble due to implied consent laws. 

According to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the law presumes that motorists give consent to tests to determine intoxication levels, including breathalyzer tests as well as field sobriety tests, simply by applying for a driver’s license. If one refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test when an officer has reasonable suspicion of intoxication, the officer cannot perform the test, but the driver will automatically incur other penalties. Depending upon the nature of the violation, the arresting officer can suspend the motorist’s driver’s license for a period ranging from six months to 18 months.

Regardless of the length of one’s term of suspension, once it is over one must pay a restoration fee if one wishes to restore one’s driver’s license. If this was the driver’s first suspension, the restoration fee is $500. However, if one has had previous license suspensions, the restoration fee may be as much as $2,000.

According to FindLaw, the percentage of drunk driving suspects in the United States who refuse breathalyzer tests may be as high as 20 percent. Although the absence of breathalyzer test results may help a DUI attorney to successfully try the case, it may not be worth it to refuse due to the penalties a refusal entails.

Implied consent laws are not unique to Pennsylvania; on the contrary, all 50 states have similar laws on the books.