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In a recent Philadelphia DUI case, the Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated the appellant’s illegal probation revocation sentence and remanded for further proceedings.

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In February 2008, the appellant was arrested in Philadelphia for suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. A subsequent blood test showed that his blood had traces of marijuana. Roughly eight months later, he was again arrested for suspicion of DUI. A subsequent blood test showed that his blood had traces of marijuana.

In April 2009, he appeared before the Philadelphia Municipal Court to plead guilty to both the February 26th and October 16th DUI offenses. He entered into a negotiated plea deal in which his February 26th DUI would be sentenced as a “first offense,” and his October 16th DUI would be sentenced as a “second offense.”

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In a recent Pennsylvania DUI case, the state intermediate court recently affirmed the appellant’s sentence imposed following her convictions of driving under the influence of a controlled substance, operating a vehicle without a valid inspection sticker, and operating a vehicle without evidence of emission inspection.

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On June 28, 2016, a Pennsylvania trooper was on traffic enforcement duty in East Lampeter Township when he observed a red car with expired inspection stickers. When the car passed his location, the trooper made a U-turn to pursue the vehicle.

The trooper caught up with the car and initiated a traffic stop. He informed the driver, the appellant, that he had pulled her over for an inspection violation, and he requested her license, registration, and proof of insurance. According to the trooper, it took the appellant more time to gather her information than it would for an average person during a non-DUI vehicle stop, and the appellant had difficulty locating her license, even though it was visible in her wallet. The trooper also noticed that the appellant’s pupils were “extremely constricted,” her speech was slurred, and she exhibited delayed reactions. The trooper asked the appellant whether she had taken any kind of medication, and she replied that she was on Adderall and Metformin. The trooper then asked the appellant whether she had taken any narcotics, and she replied that she has a prescription for oxycodone to manage pain and that she had taken some the previous evening.

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In June 2016, the United States Supreme Court issued Birchfield v. North Dakota, which held that a DUI suspect may not be informed they are subject to increased punishment in the event of refusing a blood test. A Pennsylvania DUI defendant who was arrested after Birchfield, but before the General Assembly’s July 2017 amendment of the Criminal Code, appealed her license suspension for refusing to submit to chemical testing pursuant to Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law.

beerIn June 2016, PennDOT created an amended DL 26B form in response to Birchfield. On July 20, 2017, the Pennsylvania governor approved 2017 Act 30, which amended Section 1547(b)(2) to remove language that requires an officer to give admonitions relating to enhanced criminal penalties for refusing a blood test.

Upon the defendant’s arrival at the central booking center, the officer requested that she submit to a chemical test of her blood and read her the new DL-26B form, thereby warning her that the Department would administratively suspend her driver’s license for at least 12 months for refusing to submit to a blood test. He did not advise her, however, that she would be subject to enhanced criminal penalties upon refusal. The defendant refused, and the Department issued the notice of suspension at issue. The defendant appealed to the trial court, which held a hearing, rejected the defendant’s argument, and upheld the suspension. Her timely appeal followed.

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On June 23, 2016, the United States Supreme Court issued North Dakota v. Birchfield, which held that warrantless blood tests cannot be justified under the search incident to arrest rationale, and, as a result, a driver may not be informed they are subject to increased punishment in the event of refusal. This watershed decision meaningfully affects Pennsylvania DUI prosecutions and others throughout the country.

courtroom-1-1236725-300x201A defendant appealed from his DUI conviction, asserting that the trial court erred in denying his post-sentence motion to withdraw his guilty plea to enable him to take advantage of Birchfield. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed.

In February 2016, a Pennsylvania state trooper suspected the defendant of driving under the influence during a routine traffic stop. The defendant consented to a blood draw, and he was subsequently charged with various DUI-related offenses. In June 2016, he entered into a negotiated guilty plea and was sentenced to six months’ intermediate punishment. He did not file a motion seeking to suppress his blood test results. Birchfield came out two days after the defendant’s sentence.

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When a DUI defendant loses at trial, he or she can appeal to the intermediate court based on legal errors that potentially occurred at trial. One such challenge is sufficiency of the evidence. For example, a Pennsylvania DUI defendant recently argued on appeal that the evidence produced at his DUI trial was insufficient to sustain his conviction. Finding the defendant’s arguments frivolous, his attorney filed a petition to withdraw as counsel. After review, the Pennsylvania Superior Court granted counsel’s petition to withdraw and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.beer glass

The defendant’s jury trial was held on May 17, 2017. There, the arresting officers testified that on April 18, 2016, at 9:24 p.m., they saw his Cadillac sedan double-parked in the middle of the northbound travel lane. The car’s engine was off, but its hazard lights were on. The officers testified that the defendant’s car was positioned in the road in a way that no traffic could travel by him without first having to cross a double-yellow line. As soon as the officers pulled up behind the defendant’s car, he started the Cadillac’s engine and pulled away. The officers yelled for the defendant to stop, and he obeyed. When they approached the driver’s side door of the defendant’s car, the officers noticed that two children were in the rear passenger-side seat. The passengers, aged eight and 10, were the defendant’s son and daughter.

One of the officers removed the defendant from his car and noticed that he could not maintain his balance, had slurred speech, couldn’t follow directions, looked disheveled, had bloodshot eyes, and had breath that smelled strongly of alcohol. The officers found an unopened beer inside the car. After performing poorly on field sobriety tests, the defendant admitted that he had been drinking. At that point, the officers concluded that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol and that it was unsafe for him to drive; they placed him under arrest for suspected DUI.

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In October 2016, a lower court granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges filed against him in July 1990 based on a violation of Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 (prompt trial). On appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the Commonwealth argued that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The appeals court agreed and remanded, finding the defendant could not avail himself of the protections of the speedy trial rule if he himself was responsible for the delay.

gavelThe defendant was charged with DUI and reckless driving in 1990. Soon afterward, a preliminary hearing was held, and the defendant was arraigned. In November 1990, the defendant failed to appear at court, and the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. In the intervening 26 years, the defendant was arrested and incarcerated multiple times in various jurisdictions and resided at the same address for at least the first nine of these years. Sometime in the fall of 2016, the defendant received a mailing from the Sheriff’s office indicating that a bench warrant existed for his arrest and that he should turn himself in. He turned himself in in October 2016. The bench warrant was lifted, and a pretrial conference was scheduled.Soon afterward, the defendant filed an Omnibus Pretrial Motion, alleging that his rights under Rule 600 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure were violated and that the charges should be dismissed. He further argued that the breathalyzer test results should be suppressed as a result of a failure to comply with the appropriate regulations pertaining to breath testing. At the conclusion of a hearing, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 600. The Commonwealth appealed.

Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 was designed to protect a defendant’s speedy trial rights, as well as society’s right to effective prosecution of criminal cases. The rule mandates that a defendant must be tried on criminal charges no later than 365 days after the criminal complaint is filed. However, periods of delay caused by a defendant are excluded from the computation of the length of time of any pretrial incarceration.

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The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appealed from the order granting Colby Michael Snyder’s motion to suppress in a Pennsylvania DUI case. Last month, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the lower court’s decision.

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In June 2016, a Pennsylvania State Trooper noticed Appellee speeding, weaving, and changing lanes without signaling on Interstate 81. The trooper initiated a traffic stop and noticed alcohol emanating from Appellee. When Appellee exited the vehicle, he was unsteady and disoriented. Appellee failed multiple field sobriety tests. A breathalyzer test revealed a BAC of .121.

Appellee was taken to the station where he was read the then-current DL-26 warnings. Those warnings informed Appellee that he would be subjected to increased criminal penalties if he refused to submit to a blood draw. Appellee submitted to a blood draw, which revealed a BAC of .213.

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Pennsylvania DUI law can often be nuanced and complex, as a recent case illustrates. In December 2014, K.W. was involved in an accident in Cameron County in which her car struck two pedestrians. One of the pedestrians sustained serious injuries, and the other was pronounced dead at the scene. When police arrived, Trooper J.R. asked K.W. to perform a field sobriety test, which she performed poorly. K.W. then submitted to a portable breath test, after which she was placed under arrest on suspicion of DUI.

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The police transported K.W. to the hospital for a blood test. There, Trooper J.R. read K.W. the O’Connell and implied consent warnings, as contained on the Pennsylvania State Police DL-26 form, after which K.W. consented to a BAC test. K.W. was subsequently charged with the following: homicide by vehicle while DUI; aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI; DUI of alcohol or controlled substance; DUI of alcohol or controlled substance with a BAC of .178%; DUI of alcohol or controlled substance; and careless driving.

Prior to trial, K.W. filed a motion to suppress the results of the BAC test based on Birchfield v. North Dakota. In August 2016, following a suppression hearing, the suppression court granted K.W.’s motion, and suppressed all evidence from the BAC test. The Commonwealth appealed, raising the following issue for review: “Did the trial court err in suppressing the results of the testing of [K.W.’s] blood, after a fatal, suspected DUI motor vehicle accident, on the basis of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota?

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At approximately 12:50 A.M. on July 4, 2015, a Ross Township police officer was observing traffic from a parking lot on McKnight Road in his marked police vehicle. He observed Appellant make an illegal U-turn on McKnight Road at Nelson Run Road. The officer pulled out of the parking lot onto McKnight Road and followed Appellant. He ran Appellant’s registration and while following Appellant observed that he twice swerved over the solid white line separating McKnight Road from the 279 South on-ramp. At that point, the officer activated his lights and sirens and attempted to conduct a traffic stop of Appellant’s vehicle. Appellant drove another 300 feet before pulling over in response to the police officer’s actions.

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The officer walked over to the driver’s side window and spoke with Appellant. He immediately smelled a moderate odor of alcoholic beverage on Appellant’s breath. Appellant’s eyes were glassy, watery, and bloodshot. Appellant provided his driver’s license upon request, and the officer returned to his vehicle to run Appellant’s license. He learned that Appellant’s driver’s license was suspended.

When he returned to Appellant’s vehicle, he noticed that the vehicle was still in drive, and he requested that Appellant shut the vehicle off and hand him the keys. Additional officers arrived on the scene to serve as backup, and the officer asked Appellant to step out of the vehicle to conduct field sobriety tests; Appellant complied. The officer administered several field sobriety tests, including walk and turn, one leg stand, and modified Romberg balance tests. Appellant swayed throughout the tests and had difficulty following instructions. Appellant failed the walk and turn test and the one leg stand test. At that point, the officer asked Appellant to submit to a preliminary breath test, and Appellant complied. Appellant admitted that he was drinking earlier in the evening.

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A defendant appealed from a Pennsylvania DUI sentence that was beyond the maximum range, and the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed.

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In June 2015, the appellant was stopped for driving erratically. Police administered three field sobriety tests, which the appellant failed. The police also soon learned that the appellant’s license was suspended. The appellant was arrested and taken to the police station. There, an officer read the appellant PennDOT’s DL-26 form, which explains the potential aggravated penalties for failing to submit to a breath test. The appellant refused to take a breath test and signed the form.

In July 2015, the appellant was charged with DUI and driving with a suspended license. In October 2016, he pleaded guilty to both charges, and the court deferred sentencing pending the preparation of a pre-sentence investigation report.