A BAC test is one of two chemical test allowed under Pennsylvania law for DUI offenses. If suspected of a DUI the police may ask you to submit to either a Blood Test or a Breath test. Both of these can be used to determine Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level. The police can only ask for one of these tests if they have probable cause to believe you are under the influence of alcohol and are incapable of driving safely. Whether or not your refuse to submit to a BAC test is ultimately your decision, there are different consequences depending on the type of test requested by the police. Whether or not it is in your best interest to refuse the test depends on the type of test requested and on your personal history with previous DUI convictions.
If you refuse to agree to a BAC test – PennDOT can punish you through civil law by suspending your driver’s license for a minimum of 12 months. PennDOT does this by suspending your privilege to drive in Pennsylvania. If you have a Pennsylvania license you will be required to turn that license into PennDOT. If you have an out of state license you will have to submit a form acknowledging your suspension of driving privileges in Pennsylvania. If the state which issued your license finds out about the suspension they can suspend your license, but this depends completely on each individual state and their laws handling such matters. If you refuse a BAC test, the officer will have to fill out the refusal paperwork and mail this paperwork into PennDOT. There is sometimes a delay between the refusal and the filing so there is sometimes opportunity for an intervention before the filing with PennDOT occurs. If not then PennDOT will send you suspension paperwork and tell you when and where to turn in your license. This suspension can be appealed; however, there is a strict deadline of 30 days to appeal this suspension, determined by the ‘mail by’ date on the letter of suspension from PennDOT.
In addition to the civil license suspension, you will still be charged with a DUI. If you refused a blood test your offense will be the lowest tier of DUI. If you refused a breath test your offense will be increased to the highest tier of DUI. The Courts have made this distinction between Breath and Blood samples, stating that there is a distinction between capturing the air that you breath out and using a needle to puncture your skin to remove a blood sample. Thus if you are presented with a breath test it is almost always in your best interest to not refuse the test. If you do and are then subsequently charged and convicted of the DUI the charge will be to the highest level of DUI possible. With a breath test it is usually better to provide the sample as your results may be in a lower level or not above the legal level at all.
When a Blood test is requested each individual will have to make their own choice. If you are requested to take a Blood test and you refuse, your DUI charges will remain in the lowest level of DUI. This could greatly reduce the criminal penalties that you could be facing. However, you will receive the additional minimum 12 month license suspension from PennDOT for refusing the test. Where this really matters is when an individual is facing a second or subsequent DUI, as the lowest tier DUI can keep an individual in county jail, while the higher tiers could be state prison sentences. Thus whether or not you refuse a blood test will be your decision based on your own personal history and what you are willing to risk moving forward with the different punishments.
If you refuse the BAC test then there are no results for your lawyer to challenge in Court. In addition your refusal can and will be used against you by the District Attorney in an effort to get a conviction for the DUI offense.