Many people mistakenly believe they must submit to a blood test if they are detained due to suspicion of DUI. While this used to be true, the Supreme Court’s decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota changed the legal landscape throughout the country with regards to the use of blood draws in the prosecution of DUI cases. The Birchfield holding has been applied by Pennsylvania courts in overturning DUI convictions based on the results of blood tests, where consent was improperly obtained prior to the test. If you are arrested for suspicion of DUI in Pennsylvania, it is important that you know your rights and protections under the law. If you did not knowingly and voluntarily consent to the administration of a blood test in your Pennsylvania DUI case, the prosecution may not be able to use the results of the blood test against you.
In a recent case ruled on by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Commonwealth v. Evans, it was held that where an individual only consents to a blood test due to fear of criminal penalties which would be imposed for refusing the test, the consent is not valid. In Evans, Evans was arrested on suspicion of DUI and taken to a hospital for a blood alcohol test. Prior to the administration of the test, the arresting officer gave Evans an implied consent warning but advised him if he did not submit to a blood test he would face stiffer criminal penalties.
At his trial, Evans filed a motion to suppress the results of his blood test, arguing that he was coerced into allowing his blood to be drawn for the test due to the threat of more severe punishment. As Evans did not believe he voluntarily consented to the blood test, he argued it constituted an unreasonable search that violated his constitutional rights and the results of the test must be suppressed. The arresting officer testified that he requested Evans submit to a blood test at the time of his arrest, and advised Evans if he did not agree to the blood test his license would be suspended for a minimum of twelve months. Further, Evans was advised that if he had previous DUI convictions he would be subject to the same penalties as if he was convicted at the highest rate of alcohol. The officer stated that following the warning, Evans consented to the test. Evans testified that he could not recall much of the evening, other than being told he would not go to jail if he consented to the test.
The trial court denied Evans’ motion to suppress the results of the blood test, finding that Evans consented to the test. Following a trial, Evans was found guilty of DUI, which was his third DUI offense, and sentenced to twelve to sixty months in jail. Evans appealed his conviction, arguing that the results of his blood test should not have been admitted into evidence because he did not knowingly and voluntarily consent to the test. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that although Pennsylvania’s implied consent law did not explicitly make it a crime to refuse to submit to a blood test, criminal penalties are imposed on individuals who refuse testing, in violation of the Birchfield holding. The court found Evans only consented to the blood test for fear of stricter penalties and, therefore, his consent was not given voluntarily. Evans’ sentence was vacated and the case was remanded to reevaluate Evans’ consent.
If you were given inaccurate information regarding whether you must submit to a test of your blood alcohol level, and were convicted of DUI based on the results of the test, you may have been improperly convicted. You should consult with a knowledgeable DUI attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your case. Zachary B. Cooper is a dedicated criminal defense attorney and can evaluate the facts of your case as to whether improper evidence was used against you. Call (215) 542-0800 for a consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Pennsylvania Superior Court Holds Blood Draw Evidence Admissible Under Good-Faith Exception Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, January 5, 2018
Pennsylvania Appeals Court Reverses DUI Conviction in Light of Recent Supreme Court Decision Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, January 17, 2017
Bicyclists Must Submit to Breath or Blood Testing under Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law, Commonwealth Court Holds Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, July 5, 2014