What happens if I refuse chemical testing in a Pennsylvania DUI case?

A person that refuses to submit to chemical testing to determine alcohol concentration will often face two penalties: 1) a civil, administrative suspension of Pennsylvania driving privileges; and possibly 2) filing of criminal DUI charges.

The administrative suspension only impacts a person's Pennsylvania driving privileges and is not a criminal conviction. After a person refuses to submit to chemical testing, the police officer completes a form and sends it to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). PennDOT then sends a letter advising of the effective date of suspension and duration of the suspension. The person is also advised of the right to appeal the suspension, and the appeal must be filed within 30 days of the mail date noted on the letter. The only way to avoid the administrative suspension is to file a timely appeal with the court.

With regard to criminal charges, a person that refuses chemical testing in Pennsylvania can be charged with DUI general impairment offenses. As with all criminal charges, the prosecution would be required to prove that a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. In Pennsylvania, even first offenses of DUI often carry mandatory minimum sentences that include jail time, fines, and suspensions of Pennsylvania driving privileges.

It must be emphasized that the administrative suspension for the refusal is completely separate from the DUI criminal case. A person can beat the DUI case in criminal court and still lose the civil appeal. It is possible that the officer could even decide to not file DUI charges, and a judge could still uphold the civil suspension. Simply stated, the burdens of proof are different in civil court than in criminal court.

This area of the law can be confusing, so you should talk to an attorney that has experience with DUI cases and license suspension appeals. You can contact experienced State College criminal defense attorney Jason S. Dunkle at 814-954-1094 or via email.