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Court Explains Implications of Blood Test Consent Form in Pennsylvania DUI Cases

The landmark case of Birchfield v. North Dakota was decided by the Supreme Court three years ago but continues to affect the status of Pennsylvania DUI law and the prosecution of DUI cases all over the country. For example, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently addressed the issue of whether a blood test consent form that stated that a defendant’s refusal to submit to a blood test could be used as evidence in subsequent proceedings violated the Birchfield holding. If you are charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania and you believed your consent was not properly obtained prior to blood test, it is essential to retain an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to help you protect your rights.

Fact Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that the defendant was stopped at approximately 10:00 am after he passed by police officers at a high rate of speed. The defendant refused to provide the officers with this license and registration, and his eyes were reportedly dilated and bloodshot. He was arrested for suspicion of DUI and transported to the police station for a blood draw. The defendant was read the required warnings, which he signed, and submitted to a blood test. Prior to the trial, he filed a motion asking the court to suppress the results of his blood test, alleging the consent obtained was invalid because the consent form stated that a refusal to submit to testing could be used in subsequent legal proceedings. The court granted the defendant’s motion and the Commonwealth appealed. On appeal, the Superior Court reversed and remanded.

Post-Birchfield Consent to Chemical Testing

Under Pennsylvania law, a defendant’s consent to a search and seizure is only valid when it is knowingly and validly given. The Birchfield holding explained that in the context of a DUI, a driver cannot be deemed to have consented to a blood test when the consent is based on the threat of criminal penalties for refusal. It is important to note, however, the Birchfield ruling only prohibited the imposition of criminal penalties for refusing to consent to a blood test; it did not affect the right to impose civil penalties.

As such, the court found that the trial court erred in granting the defendant’s motion to suppress the results of his blood test. The court stated that although the subject consent form threatened penalties for refusing to consent to a blood test, the penalties were solely civil or evidentiary in nature. Thus, the court found that the trial court improperly interpreted the consent form as threatening impermissible criminal penalties. Further, the court found that the evidence of the case supported the interpretation that the defendant’s consent was validly and knowingly given. The court, therefore, reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Skilled Pennsylvania DUI Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If you are a Pennsylvania resident and are currently facing DUI charges it is in your best interest to meet with a skilled Pennsylvania DUI attorney to discuss the circumstances regarding your chemical testing and what evidence the Commonwealth may introduce against you at trial.   Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney who will work diligently to aid you in seeking a successful result under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Cooper at (215) 542-0800 to set up a confidential and free consultation to discuss your case.