Driving is not a right; it’s a privilege. You remember studying for your driving test, logging hours behind the wheel, practicing parallel parking and sitting for hours while a driving instructor talked about the rules of the road. The state of Pennsylvania required you to do this if you wanted to drive.
Now, however, your driving privileges are in jeopardy because of an DUI arrest. If you have previous convictions on your record, the penalties you face may be even more severe. However, changes in state DUI laws take effect in the New Year, and being aware of them will help you realize if police are violating your rights.
The Supreme Court defends your rights
If an officer pulls you over under suspicion of driving under the influence, you are required to submit to a blood or breath test to determine the concentration of alcohol in your system. This obligation falls under the “implied consent” law, which states that by possessing a driver’s license, you agree to comply if a police officer requests such a test.
Refusing to submit to a blood or breath test once meant you would automatically go to jail. However, a recent challenge to implied consent resulted in the Supreme Court finding that blood tests – because they are so invasive – violate your Fourth Amendment right to refuse unreasonable search and seizure.
Gathering evidence against you
As a result of this ruling, you may now refuse a blood test without fear of landing in jail for doing so. Your license may still be suspended (perhaps for a year or more), but if officers want a blood test, they must have a court order. Some hospitals now have audiovisual equipment to facilitate obtaining a warrant.
This does not mean your troubles are over. You still must consent to a breath test or face criminal penalties. Additionally, officers will be ready to present other evidence when called to testify against you in court, such as the results of any field sobriety tests they conducted and their own observations of your behavior and demeanor.
Not a closed case
You have the right to legal counsel. Your attorney will investigate your case and look for any signs that your rights were violated in the collection of evidence. A dedicated lawyer will work to counter that evidence or even have it excluded.
A lawyer who has defended many clients charged with DUI understands the weight of the penalties you may be facing. Having an advocate may make a positive difference in the outcome of your case.