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Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Holds That The Mistaken Belief That Increased Penalties Will Be Imposed for Refusing to Submit to a Blood Test is Not Sufficient Grounds to Suppress Test Results

Under Pennsylvania DUI law, you must knowingly and willingly consent to chemical testing for the results of the test to be admissible. If you can show that your consent to a blood test was invalid or coerced, you may be able to suppress the results of the test. Before the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota, a Pennsylvania DUI suspect could face increased criminal penalties for failing to submit to a blood test. After that case decision, the state can no longer impose such penalties.

Recently, in Commonwealth  v. Vanderpool, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that submitting to a blood test due to a mistaken belief that a refusal to submit could result in increased criminal penalties is not sufficient to show that consent was invalid. If you are facing DUI charges and refused to submit to a breath, test you should confer with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI attorney to analyze the circumstances surrounding your arrest and discuss your available defenses.

Factual Scenario

Reportedly, the police detained the defendant for suspicion of DUI. At the time of his arrest, the defendant had a suspended license due to a prior DUI conviction. The police transported the defendant to a nearby hospital where he was read the post-Birchfield revised warnings regarding refusal to submit to chemical testing and agreed to submit to a blood test. The test indicated a blood alcohol level of .115%, and the state subsequently charged the defendant with DUI, DUI related offenses, and careless driving. Before the trial, the defendant filed a motion to prohibit the state from admitting the results of his blood test into evidence, which the court denied. Following a trial, the defendant was convicted of all charges. The defendant appealed.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Ruling

On appeal, the issue was whether the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress the results of his blood test because he consented to the test due to his knowledge of increased penalties for refusal of the tests from his prior DUI arrest. The court noted that Pennsylvania law was clear that police officers do not have an obligation to advise defendants of recent changes in the law. The court noted that if the arresting officer did not communicate an actual threat of increased penalties, then such penalties cannot be the grounds for submitting to a blood test.

Further, the court noted the defendant read the revised warning and did not question the arresting officer regarding the warning. Additionally, the defendant did not offer any testimony at trial regarding why he believed he was required to submit to the test. In summary, the court found there was no evidence that the police coerced the defendant to consent to submit to the test. As such, the court affirmed the sentence.

Retain a Skilled Pennsylvania DUI Attorney

If you face DUI charges and believe you were coerced to submit to a blood test, it is in your best interest to retain a skilled Pennsylvania DUI attorney to ensure you do not waive your rights. Zachary B. Cooper is an experienced criminal defense attorney who will aggressively advocate on your behalf. Contact him at (215) 542-0800 to schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is not Bound by a Plea Agreement not to Suspend a Defendant’s License in a DUI Case Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, October 25, 2018

Acceptance of ARD for a Pennsylvania DUI Charge Constitutes a First Offense for Purposes of License Suspension Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, October 10, 2018

Pennsylvania Courts Rule Birchfield Does Not Prohibit a License Suspension for Refusing a Blood Test Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, August 29, 2018