Published on:

Court Discusses Extrapolatory Evidence in Pennsylvania Cases Involving Per Se DUI

In Pennsylvania, there are numerous DUI offenses a defendant may be charged with committing. For example, a defendant with a blood alcohol level of 0.15% or higher may be charged with driving under the influence – highest rate of alcohol. To prove a defendant is guilty of DUI – highest rate, the Commonwealth must not only prove the defendant’s blood-alcohol level but also that the defendant operated a vehicle within two hours prior to when the blood alcohol level was obtained. In a recent case in which the defendant was charged with DUI – highest rate, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania discussed what evidence is sufficient to establish that a defendant operated a vehicle within the required time period. If you live in Pennsylvania and are charged with DUI – highest rate, it is advisable to meet with a trusted Pennsylvania DUI attorney to assess what evidence the Commonwealth may use against you to establish your guilt.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Background

It is alleged that the police responded to a call that was placed at 11:49 pm regarding a motor vehicle collision. When the police arrived at the scene, they observed the defendant in the back of an ambulance. She smelled like alcohol, had slurred speech, and was missing her shoes. She was transported to a hospital where her blood was drawn, revealing a blood alcohol level of 0.304%. The blood test was conducted at 1:40 am. The defendant was subsequently charged with DUI – highest rate of alcohol.

Reportedly, the defendant filed a motion to have the charge dismissed on the grounds that the Commonwealth could not establish a prima facie case, due to the lapse of time between when the accident occurred and when the defendant’s blood was drawn. The Commonwealth appealed, and the Superior Court reversed the trial court ruling. The defendant then appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Relation Back From the Time of Testing to the Time of Driving

On appeal, the defendant argued that the Commonwealth failed to present credible evidence that the defendant last operated her vehicle at 11:40, two hours before the blood test. The court noted that while other cases had evaluated whether the results of a blood test could be related back to the time of driving, it was an issue of first impression whether the Commonwealth could relate back to the two-hour window in a per se offense.

The court explained that there was a difference between weak and strong inferences. A weak inference is present when a defendant’s blood alcohol content is not significantly higher than the level needed to be charged with a per se offense, or a substantial period of time between the time of testing and the time of driving. Conversely, strong inference is present when a blood test indicates a high blood alcohol level, and the sample was taken shortly after the defendant was driving. In the subject case, the court found that there was no reason to differentiate between general impairment and per se offenses. Thus, the court found that given the defendant’s blood alcohol rate and the reasonably short time between when she was driving and when her blood was tested the Commonwealth could proceed to a jury with evidence that the defendant was guilty of DUI – highest rate based on the circumstantial evidence, without relying on expert testimony.

Meet with a Skillful DUI Defense Attorney

If you are faced with a charge you committed a DUI crime, it is wise to meet with a skillful attorney to discuss your potential defenses. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a seasoned Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney with the knowledge and experience needed to help you seek a successful outcome.  Mr. Cooper can be contacted at  (215) 542-0800 or through the online form to set up a meeting.