Did You Know Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Mandatory in Pennsylvania?

Police may stop you in Pennsylvania for a traffic violation or because they believe you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When a police officer approaches your vehicle, they’ll ask routine questions to investigate the situation. Suppose a police officer smells alcohol on your breath or notices an open container in the car. In that case, they’ll ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests. After completing those tests, the officer may have probable cause to place you under arrest for suspected driving under the influence (DUI).

If you find yourself in this situation, you may wonder whether Pennsylvania law requires you to take these field sobriety tests. In short, the answer is no, but there’s more to it. Learn more about the laws in Pennsylvania surrounding field sobriety tests below.

Two Things You Should Know about Field Sobriety Tests in Pennsylvania

Field sobriety tests generally include the walk and turn, finger to nose, horizontal nystagmus gaze test, and a portable breath test. When pulled over for suspected drunk or drugged driving, remember the two following points:

  • Field sobriety tests are only used to establish probable cause to make an arrest
  • You are not legally required to perform them

A police officer will not make these facts known if they believe you’re driving under the influence of alcohol or mind-altering substances. However, no Pennsylvania law requires you to do these tests. They are voluntary on the driver’s behalf.

Portable breath tests administered at the scene are also entirely voluntary. While every Pennsylvania driver gives their implied consent to chemical testing (i.e., a breath or blood test) the portable breath test is voluntary at the time of the traffic stop.

What Constitutes “Probable Cause” to Make an Arrest for DUI?

Under Pennsylvania law, law enforcement must have probable cause to initiate a DUI arrest. This probable cause is collected through the officer’s face-to-face observation of the driver throughout the traffic stop.

When an officer asks you to perform a series of field sobriety tests, they can decide, based on those tests, that you are unfit to drive because you have consumed controlled substances or too much alcohol. With that conclusion, they will arrest you for suspected DUI. What the officer smells and observes is crucial, but it can be challenged on various grounds by a seasoned DUI defense attorney.

What Are the Potential Penalties of DUI in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, even a first offense DUI conviction can lead to a wide range of penalties that the courts can decide to—or are required to—impose in your case. Possible penalties of DUI conviction include:

  • Jail time
  • Fines and court fees
  • Community service
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Mandatory drug and alcohol counseling
  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device
  • A criminal record

What Are Defenses Against DUI Charges in Pennsylvania?

With the help of an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer, you may be able to successfully challenge your DUI charges. For example, if law enforcement did not have probable cause to pull your vehicle over in the event of illegal roadblocks or checkpoints, a skilled DUI defense lawyer may dispute whether the arresting officer had a legal reason to stop your vehicle.

If it is demonstrated that the officer did not have the right to pull you over, your DUI charges may be dismissed. It’s important to note that if the officer did not observe you committing a traffic violation or a crime before stopping your vehicle, they might not have had the right to stop or question you.

Additionally, a seasoned DUI lawyer may potentially prove that law enforcement did not follow appropriate policies and procedures while administering a chemical or breath test. Perhaps the breathalyzer was not effectively calibrated, and that led to a false reading of your BAC. When you partner with an experienced DUI defense lawyer, they will consider all of these matters in your defense against a DUI conviction.

Arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania? Speak with an Experienced DUI Defense Lawyer Today!

If you’re facing DUI charges in Pennsylvania, do not automatically assume you will be convicted. Call an experienced Montgomery County DUI defense attorney at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. today. For over 65 years, our DUI lawyers have passionately defended our clients from DUI charges across Southeastern Pennsylvania. Your DUI arrest does not have to result in a conviction.

Speak with an experienced DUI lawyer today about your situation to learn your legal options. To schedule your free consultation, complete a contact form or call  215-822-7575 today.