Getting stopped by the police for suspected drunk or drugged driving can be confusing and scary, especially if it’s never happened to you before. People often have questions about what officers can do during a stop—questions like “Can I refuse a breathalyzer (or portable breath test)?”
Check out this basic guide regarding what police can and can’t do in common impaired driving situations in Lancaster County.
This guide is for general informational purposes only. Always talk with an experienced DUI lawyer to learn more about your rights and options related to a specific situation.
Can police force you to take a field sobriety test?
Short answer: No.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are considered a subjective way to identify signs of intoxication. Politely refusing a field test won’t necessarily trigger an arrest or incur separate penalties. However, police can consider other impairment signs, like slurred speech or the odor of alcohol, when deciding whether to arrest and charge you.
Can police make you take a breath, blood, or urine test?
Short answer: It depends.
PA’s motor vehicle code states that by driving a vehicle, you’ve implied consent for tests that determine impairment. Police can test using breath or blood testing. Although urine tests are allowed in some areas, they aren’t considered reliable, so they’re not utilized in Lancaster County.
If police ask you to take the breath test at the scene of the traffic stop before you’ve been arrested, it’s considered part of a SFST, which means it can be refused without penalty.
However, if you’ve been asked to give breath or blood at the station or hospital after you’ve been arrested, then it’s a request you must obey or face automatic license suspension. Learn more in DUI Testing.
In the past, police could order a blood test if they suspected an impaired driver. However, unless an emergency exists, they must now obtain a warrant for DUI-related blood tests if you do not consent.
Can police test you for marijuana or other drugs, including prescription medications?
Short answer: Yes
Police can subject you to a blood test to detect drugs or their byproducts if they suspect you’re driving under the influence. As with alcohol tests, Lancaster County officers don’t use urine tests to detect drugs.
Can police search your car during a DUI stop?
Short answer: Maybe
Officers can search a vehicle without a warrant if there is evidence of marijuana or paraphernalia in plain view. The odor of marijuana can lead to their request to search as well if you consent to the search. They can search the car after you are arrested for DUI, as well. The search can include all areas of the vehicle, like the trunk and glove box, as well as personal belongings, such as a purse or backpack, in the car.
Can police charge you with a DUI if you’re sleeping it off in the car?
Short answer: Maybe
Even if you made the wise decision to sleep it off in the car, you could be charged with a DUI in PA if an officer believes you had driven or had the intent to drive while impaired. Police will look for circumstantial evidence, such as where the vehicle is parked or the location of the keys, to determine whether to charge you. For instance, you could be charged if you’re found asleep at the wheel with the keys in the ignition.
Get the legal expertise you need in a tough situation.
Whether you chose to refuse a breathalyzer or you’re concerned a search during a DUI stop violated your rights, you’ll want an experienced legal expert by your side. Contact Mark Walmer.