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Pennsylvania Appeal Court Upholds DUI Defendant’s License Suspension Following Birchfield

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.

On appeal, the defendant argued her suspension should be reversed because the arresting trooper did not warn her in accordance with relevant law that her refusal to submit to a blood test would subject her to enhanced criminal penalties. In addition, she maintained that by using the new DL-26B form before the General Assembly amended the Code regarding enhanced criminal penalties in accordance with Birchfield, the Department usurped the role of the legislature, such that her suspension should not stand. The Pennsylvania Superior Court, however, had already rejected arguments that the Department and the police had to continue to apply Section 1547(b)(2)(ii) until the General Assembly amended it.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed, explaining that it had already rejected the defendant’s position in another case. Specifically, it stated that the defendant’s argument that her license must be reinstated because she was not warned that she would be subject to enhanced criminal penalties that were no longer constitutionally permissible for refusing blood testing was unpersuasive. Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed.

If you’re a Pennsylvania resident and have been arrested for a DUI, you should hire a competent attorney at your earliest convenience. Criminal defense attorney Zachary B. Cooper is skilled at defending DUIs and can zealously argue on your behalf. Call (215) 542-0800 for a consultation. Zachary B. Cooper can investigate all of the facts of your case and determine the legal arguments that you may be able to make to prevent a conviction or minimize the consequences.

More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Holds Evidence Sufficient to Sustain Defendant’s DUI Conviction, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, February 15, 2018

Pennsylvania Superior Court Holds Lower Court Properly Suppressed DUI Defendant’s Blood Draw Evidence, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, January 19, 2018

Pennsylvania Superior Court Denies DUI Defendant Post-Conviction Relief, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, October 18, 2017