After Court Ruling, PA Prosecutors Nix Blood Tests for DUI
In January of this year, the AP reported that prosecutors throughout Pennsylvania were advising police not to use blood tests on DUI suspects, but only to rely on Breathalyzer tests. This change in policy comes about six months after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Birchfield v. North Dakota, which requires law enforcement to get a warrant to perform a blood test after a DUI arrest (if the motorist does not consent to a blood test), but does not require a warrant for a breath test.
Subsequently, “a three-judge Pennsylvania Superior Court panel found…that a Chester County man was wrongfully disciplined with an increased sentence for declining the test.” Following the SCOTUS ruling in Birchfield, Senior Judge John Musmanno wrote that “warrantless blood tests are an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.” The AP story noted that that was good news for Hemant Kohli, who “twice refused to have his blood drawn for blood-alcohol level testing after he was arrested for driving under the influence in Caln Township in 2013.” Mr. Kohli cannot be punished for refusing to submit to what was ultimately an illegal search and seizure.
So, how do these court decisions affect Pennsylvania’s implied consent law? Essentially, Pennsylvania’s law, like the laws of many other states, holds that motorists who use public roads within the commonwealth impliedly consent to a blood alcohol test if they are arrested for DUI, and if they refuse the test, they are subject to an administrative suspension of their driver’s license. But the courts say the law cannot use implied consent to compel a search that requires a warrant. Law enforcement prefers blood tests because they can detect intoxicating drugs, such as opioids, which Breathalyzers miss. But by continuing to rely on blood tests, law enforcement was running the risk of having evidence barred from court, thereby giving DUI offenders a free pass.
If you get pulled over on suspicion of DUI, remember that the implied consent law only applies after you’ve been arrested; you cannot be asked to submit to a blood test without police first placing you under arrest. It’s also important to remember that a DUI is not a mere moving violation. It has serious consequences if you are convicted, so you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you are charged with driving under the influence in the Reading area, protect your rights by meeting with criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman today.