If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint or by law enforcement, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities. Many laypeople try to understand the complex DUI laws and give advice, but you should go back to the criminal code and information you get from the Department of Motor Vehicles. In 2002, one person was charged with DUI, even though he was just sitting in the driver’s seat. Here are some of the common myths of DUIs that you should know before you drink and drive.
Myth: You do not have to consent to a breathalyzer test.
- Truth: You have already consented by driving a vehicle. Many people believe that the Fifth Amendment gives you the right to refuse to incriminate yourself by refusing to do a breathalyzer or blood test. In fact, Pennsylvania has an “implied consent” law. The general rule is that any person who is in “physical control of the movement of a vehicle” in Pennsylvania is giving consent to chemical tests. Refusing the tests will almost guarantee the loss of your license for a year, even if you are not convicted of a DUI.
Myth: You cannot refuse the field sobriety test.
- Truth: You can refuse to the take the field sobriety test, but the officer may consider that refusal a “consciousness of guilt.” If you have a physical condition that makes the field sobriety test difficult to perform, you should explain that to the officer. If you are arrested for a DUI, let your attorney argue your case.
Myth: You can avoid jail by getting house arrest.
- Truth: Do not count on this. Many counties do not allow house arrest except under rare circumstances.
Myth: Even if convicted of a DUI, you can get a license to allow you to drive back and forth to work.
- Truth: Again, you cannot count on getting what is called a “bread and butter license.” Most DUI offenses are not eligible for this type of license.
Myth: You do not need a lawyer if it is your first offense.
- Truth: If you are convicted of a DUI, it will stay on your record for 10 years and will count against you if you are ever sentenced for another DUI. Even if it is the first time you have ever been in trouble, you will not get a “slap on the wrist.” However, your attorney may be able to help you make sure your rights are protected and find the best solution for you. There are diversionary programs which the District Attorney’s office has discretion over. Your attorney can advocate for you in this situation.