Articles Posted in Refusal

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While it is common knowledge you can be charged with DUI if a police officer directly observes you driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, many people are unaware you can be charged with DUI even if the arresting officer did not actually witness you operating a vehicle. In Yencha v. Commonwealth, et al., the court clarified the issue of what constitutes sufficient evidence for charging an individual of driving under the influence of alcohol within the framework of Pennsylvania DUI law.Legal News Gavel

In Yencha, an officer responded to a call regarding a hit and run accident. When he arrived at the scene, the victim and a witness to the accident both described the vehicle involved in the hit and run and the man driving the vehicle. The witness also provided the license plate number of the vehicle. The officer ran the license plate number and subsequently found the vehicle parked outside of the suspect’s residence. The officer noted the vehicle had front-end damage. The officer spoke with the suspect, who reported his vehicle had been damaged in a previous accident and denied any knowledge of the hit and run accident. The officer noted the suspect had glassy eyes, slurred speech and an odor of alcohol on his breath and requested the suspect undergo a field sobriety test. The suspect refused to undergo any testing. The officer arrested the suspect for suspicion of DUI and being involved in a hit and run. The suspect was transported to the police station, where he again refused to submit to a breath test.

Following a trial, the Department of Transportation (DOT) imposed a one year suspension on the suspect’s license for failure to submit to the breath test. The suspect appealed, arguing the officer did not have reasonable grounds to charge the suspect with DUI and therefore the suspension for failure to submit to a breath test was improper. The trial court sustained the suspect’s appeal and reversed the suspension. The DOT appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, arguing the trial court erred when it held the officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe the suspect was driving under the influence of alcohol, and the suspension should be reinstated.

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Under Pennsylvania law, if you are detained due to suspicion of DUI and refuse to submit to chemical testing, the Department of Transportation may suspend your license for one year. While the police are required to warn a suspect of the consequences of refusing to take a blood or breath test, they do not have to inform a suspect of what behavior is considered a refusal. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently clarified what constitutes refusal to submit to chemical testing under Pennsylvania DUI law and held that conduct other than an explicit refusal may be considered a refusal to submit to testing.  Legal News Gavel

In Lukach v. Commonwealth et al., the suspect’s operating privileges were suspended for one year due to her refusal to submit to chemical testing following her arrest for suspicion of DUI. She appealed the suspension, arguing the trial court erroneously found she refused to submit to chemical testing. On appeal, the court affirmed the suspension.

The suspect was stopped for committing a traffic violation. She admitted consuming alcohol prior to driving, and failed a field sobriety test and a breath test. She was arrested for DUI and administered implied consent warnings, after which the arresting officer requested that the suspect submit to a blood test to accurately assess her blood alcohol content. The suspect initially agreed to submit to the test, but then requested to speak to an attorney and her sister prior to submitting to the test. She then asked for time to reconsider taking the blood test. The officer deemed the suspect’s behavior as a refusal to submit to the blood test.  As such, the Department of Transportation received notification that the suspect refused to submit to chemical testing and her license was suspended for one year.

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The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently remanded for re-sentencing an appellant’s DUI conviction because he was subjected to enhanced penalties provided by sections 3803 and 3804 for refusing to provide a blood sample, in contravention of the United States Supreme Court’s recent directive.

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In the early morning of February 12, 2015, an officer witnessed a driver’s vehicle sideswipe a legally parked car. The officer initiated a traffic stop. When the driver rolled down the vehicle window, a strong odor of alcohol emanated from the vehicle. The officer and his colleague noticed that the driver had red, glassy eyes, and his speech was slurred.

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In the wake of the Fourth of July, historically known for its high rate of drunk-driving fatalities nationally, Pennsylvania police departments have been enforcing new DUI rules mandated by the recent Supreme Court ruling in Birchfield v. North DakotaLegal News Gavel

Chief Gleason of the West Goshen Police Department said his officers would start implementing the new rules immediately. They will strive to perfect their procedures for investigating DUIs and making arrests. They plan to continue to pursue drunk drivers vigorously.

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Legal News GavelPeople who operate vehicles in Pennsylvania have consented to chemical testing, simply by virtue of operating a vehicle, if they are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), according to Pennsylvania law. This applies even if a person is operating a bicycle at the time police seek to perform a chemical test, according to a recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in Bilka v. Commonwealth. The defendant appealed an 18-month license suspension ordered after he refused to submit to blood testing. He argued that the implied consent law did not apply to him because he was riding a bicycle, which does not require a license, at the time of his arrest. The trial court and Commonwealth Court disagreed and affirmed the license suspension.

A police officer stopped the defendant, who was on a bicycle, shortly before midnight on September 15, 2011. The officer alleged that he observed the defendant run a red light, and that the bicycle lacked the headlight and side reflectors required by law. He claimed that the defendant smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, and had trouble walking when he got off the bicycle. After the defendant refused to perform field sobriety testing, the officer placed him under arrest. The defendant refused to submit to blood testing, reportedly telling the officer that he could not be arrested for DUI on a bicycle.

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By Marco C (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently considered the appeal of a license suspension for refusal to submit to chemical testing. The defendant in Commonwealth v. Campbell denied that she refused testing, and the record shows that she consented to breath testing and submitted several samples. Rather, she argued that the police did not give her enough opportunity to comply with the testing requirement. The court reviewed the elements that the state must prove in order to prove refusal. It affirmed the trial court’s order, meaning that a driver who agrees to submit to chemical testing could still be charged with refusal.

Police arrested the defendant shortly before midnight on February 12, 2012. The arresting officer administered a portable breath test, which reportedly showed blood alcohol content (BAC) of .18 percent. He concluded that the defendant had been driving under the influence of alcohol, placed her under arrest, and took her to a sheriff’s office with a chemical testing facility.

At the sheriff’s office, a deputy sheriff reportedly read the Implied Consent Law warnings to the defendant “several times,” and the defendant stated that she understood the warnings and agreed to submit to chemical testing. The deputy testified in court that he used a “BAC Data Master” for breath testing. The deputy testified that the defendant failed to perform the test properly, despite his instructions. She allegedly only breathed into the mouthpiece for four to five seconds, which was not enough time to collect a sample. The deputy allowed her to try again, but claimed that the second sample was also insufficient. His supervisor prevented him from giving her a third try. Continue reading

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See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsA driver appealed the suspension of his driver’s license to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, arguing that the trial court lacked sufficient evidence and committed several legal errors. The Commonwealth Court disagreed and affirmed the suspension. Blalock v. Commonwealth, No. 1592 C.D. 2012, opinion (Pa. Commw. Ct., May 28, 2013). In its order, the court stated that it could only consider whether the trial court had abused its discretion, not whether it got the facts wrong. Since license suspension is a civil proceeding rather than a criminal one, the burden of proof is much lower for the state. Both the trial court and the Commonwealth Court relied on the arresting officers’ testimony that the driver showed “signs of intoxication” during the arrest.

The driver’s arrest occurred in the early morning of February 23, 2012. According to witnesses, he was driving down the center of the road when he collided with another vehicle. The other vehicle was allegedly unable to avoid the collision. He continued for another 100 yards, then left his vehicle and ran into the woods. The driver reportedly told police that he swerved to avoid hitting a deer, then ran into the woods to look for the deer. The driver also stated that he hit his head during the collision, and that this injury might have affected his behavior.

Police stated that the driver exhibited signs of intoxication, such as “slow and deliberate” movements and speech, confusion, and a “faint to moderate” smell of alcohol. He allegedly did not perform well on field sobriety tests, and the officers said that he “exhibited no outward signs of injury.” The officers claim that they read the Form DL-26 warnings to him, which advise of the consequences of refusing chemical testing, and that he signed the form and refused to submit to tests. He later pleaded guilty to careless driving and failure to stay in his lane of traffic. The Department of Transportation (DOT) suspended his license for one year, which the law allows if a DUI suspect refuses chemical testing. He appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. Continue reading