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What Constitutes Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing in Pennsylvania?

Under Pennsylvania law, if you are detained due to suspicion of DUI and refuse to submit to chemical testing, the Department of Transportation may suspend your license for one year. While the police are required to warn a suspect of the consequences of refusing to take a blood or breath test, they do not have to inform a suspect of what behavior is considered a refusal. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently clarified what constitutes refusal to submit to chemical testing under Pennsylvania DUI law and held that conduct other than an explicit refusal may be considered a refusal to submit to testing.  Legal News Gavel

In Lukach v. Commonwealth et al., the suspect’s operating privileges were suspended for one year due to her refusal to submit to chemical testing following her arrest for suspicion of DUI. She appealed the suspension, arguing the trial court erroneously found she refused to submit to chemical testing. On appeal, the court affirmed the suspension.

The suspect was stopped for committing a traffic violation. She admitted consuming alcohol prior to driving, and failed a field sobriety test and a breath test. She was arrested for DUI and administered implied consent warnings, after which the arresting officer requested that the suspect submit to a blood test to accurately assess her blood alcohol content. The suspect initially agreed to submit to the test, but then requested to speak to an attorney and her sister prior to submitting to the test. She then asked for time to reconsider taking the blood test. The officer deemed the suspect’s behavior as a refusal to submit to the blood test.  As such, the Department of Transportation received notification that the suspect refused to submit to chemical testing and her license was suspended for one year.

At the suspect’s trial, the court found the suspect tacitly refused to submit to the test by asking to speak to her sister and attorney and delaying the test. The suspect argued the trial court erroneously found she refused to submit to the test, as she never stated she was unwilling to take the test, and she was not asked to sign the implied consent warning form stating she refused to undergo the blood test. On appeal, the court was not persuaded by the suspect’s contentions, finding that an officer is only required to administer the implied consent warnings to a suspect, but has no duty to ensure a suspect adequately understands the warnings. To prove a suspect refused to submit to chemical testing the Department of Transportation only needs to show the suspect was offered a meaningful opportunity to submit to testing and refused to do so. The court noted that any behavior other than unambiguous consent may be considered a refusal. Notably, even if a suspect originally consents to submit to a blood test, the suspect’s subsequent behavior can negate the consent and constitute a refusal.

If you were charged with DUI and lost your license for refusal to submit to chemical testing, it is important to evaluate the facts of your case to determine your best defense. You should consult a knowledgeable DUI attorney to analyze your case. Zachary B. Cooper is an experienced criminal defense attorney and can assist with your properly defending the charges against you. Call (215) 542-0800 for a consultation.

 More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Appeal Court Upholds DUI Defendant’s License Suspension Following Birchfield Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, March 15, 2018

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Considers What Constitutes “Refusal” to Submit to Chemical Testing for DUI  Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, March 29, 2014

Pennsylvania Driver Challenges Suspension of License for Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, January 26, 2014