A defendant appealed from a 2017 trial court order denying his appeal from a suspension of his driving privileges imposed by the Bureau of Driver’s Licensing. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the order.
In May 2016, two Pennsylvania State Police Troopers were dispatched to a truck stop in Breezewood, Pennsylvania based on a report of a man passed out on the sidewalk. The officers arrived shortly thereafter and found the defendant passed out. They smelled alcohol on his breath and further noted that his eyes were glassy and bloodshot.
They asked the defendant how he arrived in Breezewood, and he replied that he drove there. They then asked the defendant where his car was, and he said that his car was in the parking lot. They asked the defendant how much he had to drink, and he responded that he had a few drinks at his house. They didn’t perform field sobriety tests because he appeared drunk and had trouble standing up straight. But they conducted a breath test, which revealed a 0.196% BAC, which is above the legal limit.
The officers transported the defendant to the hospital for chemical testing, where he refused to submit to a blood test or sign the DL-26 form. In July 2016, the Bureau suspended his driving privileges due to a violation of section 1547 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. He appealed the suspension, and the trial court held that the Bureau properly suspended his license pursuant to section 1547. The defendant appealed this ruling.
In affirming, the appeals court explained that it isn’t necessary for an officer to see a defendant driving a car for him to reasonably believe he had physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. The appeals court concluded, as the trial court found, that the Bureau established the necessary time frame. The officers were sent to the truck stop at roughly 2:00 a.m. and arrived at roughly 2:25 a.m. In response to questioning, the defendant said that he drove to Breezewood, admitted that he consumed multiple alcoholic drinks, and said that he did not have any additional drinks since arriving. Finally, following his arrest, the hood of his car was still warm, which suggested it had recently been driven.
Next, the appeals court held that the officers had reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant was intoxicated. Specifically, the officers found him passed out and smelling strongly of alcohol. His eyes were bloodshot, and he was confused about his location. He admitted to drinking alcohol, and his breath test revealed a BAC above the legal limit. The warm hood of his car, coupled with his admission to driving to Breezewood, indicated that he was driving his car before the officers arrived on the scene.
For these reasons, the appeals court held that the officers had reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant was operating a car while he was intoxicated.
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Superior Court Holds Pennsylvania DUI Appellant Received a Prompt Trial, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, August 15, 2017.
Pennsylvania Superior Court Dismisses DUI Appeal as Untimely, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, July 19, 2017.
Pennsylvania Appeals Court Upholds DUI-Related Drug Convictions, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, July 6, 2017.
Pennsylvania Appeals Court Upholds Defendant’s Resentencing Following New DUI Conviction, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, May 9, 2017.