What to Do if You’re Pulled Over for DUI in PA

Follow the instructions below to maximize your chances of a favorable resolution when faced with a potential DUI arrest in Pennsylvania.

1. Keep it together

If you’re pulled over by Pennsylvania police after you’ve been drinking, keeping your cool can be much easier said than done.  Remaining calm, however, is the most important thing to keep in mind if you find yourself in this situation.  Law enforcement officers in PA are subject to dangerous and risky work, especially at night.  Unfortunately, police officers have been harmed or killed during routine traffic stops, even here in Montgomery County, PA.  Officers are trained to be cautious and to protect themselves.  If you see flashing police lights in your rear view mirror, carefully pull over to the right-hand side of the road.  Don’t make any sudden movements and keep your hands on the steering wheel to provide the officer with assurance that you have no intent to harm him or her.

Treating the officer with respect and common courtesy will make the officer far less likely to arrest you, although the officer’s mind may have already been made up.  If you come off as rude or hostile, the police officer is more likely to do everything possible to get you convicted for DUI.  Pennsylvania law expressly provides that a driver pulled over reasonably believed to be DUI shall, upon request, provide a registration card, driver’s license, and insurance information.  Provide the requested documentation when you are asked.  Stay calm and remember that the police are watching to see how you carry yourself as you complete these basic steps.

2. Don’t incriminate yourself

Police officers in PA often rely on a driver’s anxiety when faced with a potential DUI arrest.  Drivers in this position are often very nervous, and it can be easy to unintentionally incriminate yourself if you’re not careful.  You are required to provide your name, license, and registration to the police officer upon request.  If the officer asks you if you’ve been drinking, or how much, and you’re worried you may incriminate yourself, simply tell the officer, “I’m sorry, officer, but I’ve been advised not to answer any questions.”  Don’t discuss where you were, what you did, who you were with, or whether you were drinking.  In the anxiety of the situation, many people forget that silence or a polite refusal to answer a question is not an admission of guilt to DUI or any other charge.  It is a right you have under the law.  Talking, and even answering seemingly routine questions, will just provide the officer with more evidence against you.  Do not volunteer information before consulting with a Pennsylvania DUI attorney.

3. Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests often provide police with the first significant opportunity to decide if a person should be arrested for DUI.  These tests are designed to assist an officer in forming probable cause to make a DUI arrest in PA.  Field sobriety tests commonly administered in Pennsylvania include the one-leg stand, walk-and-turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagumus test.

These tests are subjective, and you are under no legal duty to submit to them.  You can politely decline to take any field sobriety tests; however, evidence of your refusal to take field tests is admissible at trial.  See Com. v. McConnell, 404 Pa. Super. 439, 591 A.2d 288 (1991).  While your refusal to submit to field sobriety tests can deprive police of evidence of intoxication, refusal to take them may also provide police with an indication of a guilty state of mind, similar to flight from a crime scene.  Therefore, a driver who refuses to submit to field tests is as likely to be arrested for DUI as a driver who takes them and fails.  On the other hand, in the absence of other compelling indications of alcohol intoxication, an individual who passes field tests issued in PA should be given the benefit of the doubt and be allowed to proceed without an arrest.  Additionally, field sobriety tests must be administered by police under a specific set of legal standards and circumstances.  Any deviation from the standard protocol can provide your DUI attorney with reason to challenge the admissibility of the evidence.

4. Preliminary Breath Test

Many people confuse the preliminary, “informal” breath test with the “formal” chemical tests that are administered after a motorist is arrested for DUI in PA.  The sole purpose of the preliminary breath test (PBT) is to assist the police officer in determining whether or not you should be placed under arrest for DUI.  Gregro v. Commonwealth, Dept. of Trans., Bureau of Driver Licensing, 987 A.2d 1264 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2010).  The PBT should not be confused with the chemical test of blood, breath, or urine that you will be asked to take when you get to the police station or DUI processing center.  Under Pennsylvania law, you are not obligated to submit to the PBT.  You do, however, have an obligation to submit to chemical testing back at the station or DUI processing center, or else you will face refusal charges, which are discussed below.

5. If you are taken into police custody

In contrast to your right to refuse the PBT, you do not have the same right to refuse chemical testing back at the police station or DUI processing center.  If you do, your license will be suspended for 12-18 months, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the DUI charges against you.  Additionally, the prosecution may introduce your refusal as evidence against you at your criminal DUI trial.

The reason for this is that Pennsylvania has conditioned the use of its roadways upon motorists’ consent to provide a sample of their breath, blood, or urine for chemical analysis for purposes of determining whether a driver is intoxicated.  Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law states that any motorist in PA has implicitly provided his or her consent to chemical testing.  Pennsylvania law has long held that a person’s right to consult with legal counsel does not apply to the chemical testing procedure authorized by PA’s Implied Consent Law.

6. Write down details of your DUI arrest

The more details you can recall and write down following your DUI arrest, the more you’ll be able to provide your DUI lawyer to work with.  The details of your DUI arrest will be vivid in your memory immediately following the incident, but they will quickly fade.  Write down everything you can remember about the night in question, including:

  • Who you were with
  • What you were drinking
  • How much you had to drink
  • Whether you were on any medication
  • Where you were pulled over
  • The road conditions
  • What you ate that night and when

7. Call a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer

The best thing you can do to help yourself is to contact a qualified DUI lawyer as soon as possible.  The sooner you involve a skilled PA DUI attorney, the better your attorney can prepare your case.  If you are arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania, there are time-sensitive procedures that must be completed early in the process.  For example, you’ll want to consult a DUI attorney for your preliminary hearing.  There are many avenues of defense that a qualified PA DUI attorney can explore.  To learn your options, consult an experienced Pennsylvania DUI lawyer as soon as possible following your arrest.

An unfortunate reality of this topic is that sometimes, this information is read only after the fact.  If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI in Southeastern Pennsylvania, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney as soon as possible for representation.  Contact The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980 for a free case evaluation with an experienced PA DUI lawyer.

Tell Us About Your Case

Please submit the form and an attorney will contact you shortly.
Please indicate how you would like to be contacted in the form.