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Pennsylvania Appellate Court Reverses DUI Conviction in Light of McNeely

The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently reversed and remanded a defendant’s DUI convictions in light of the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Missouri v. McNeely.

In December 2012, Philadelphia Police Officer Amina Oliver observed defendant Stacey Lane’s vehicle blocking a lane on Loudon Street. Lane exited his car and shouted:  “Stacey Lane got love for Logan.” (Logan is the name of the neighborhood where the incident occurred.) Lane continued to scream at passing cars. Officer Oliver noticed that Lane had dilated pupils, and his body and car smelled strongly of PCP. Oliver called for a police car to take Lane to the hospital.

At 11:22 pm, the chemical testing officer tried to rouse Lane, who was unconscious in his hospital bed. The officer observed that hospital personnel had administered Ativan and Haldol to Lane. After reading Lane his implied consent warnings, the officer ordered the nurse to draw blood. Lane’s blood tested positive for morphine, codeine, ethyl alcohol, and marijuana.

The trial court convicted Lane of DUI–general impairment and DUI–controlled substance of metabolite. Lane filed a post-verdict motion for extraordinary relief, claiming newly discovered evidence and requesting a new trial based upon the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. McNeely. (In McNeely, the Court held that in DUI investigations, the natural depletion of alcohol in the blood is not an automatic exigency sufficient to justify a warrantless blood test.)

The trial court granted Lane’s motion in part and reopened the trial to allow Lane to present additional evidence but denied relief pursuant to McNeely. Following Lane’s presentation of the new evidence, the trial court again convicted Lane of the above-described charges. Lane filed a post-sentence motion, which the trial court denied. Lane appealed, presenting the following issue:

If the controlling case law has changed after a defendant waived his right to litigate a motion to suppress the blood drawn in his prosecution for driving under the influence, but while his case was still before the trial court, is it not error for the trial court to deny his post-verdict motion for extraordinary relief and a new trial so that he may litigate the motion to suppress?

Lane contended that in McNeely, the Supreme Court opined that a police-ordered blood draw is a “search,” and “warrantless searches are presumed unreasonable unless they meet some well-founded exception to the warrant requirement.” Moreover, Lane contended that the procedural rules governing municipal court trials and appeals precluded him from seeking relief prior to the trial.

In reversing Lane’s conviction, the appeals court relied on its own precedent in Commonwealth v. Myers, 118 A.3d 1122 (Pa. Super. 2015), a factually similar case. Similar to Myers, Lane was transported to the hospital, where he was administered Ativan and Haldol. Also similar to Myers, the chemical testing officer in Lane’s case read the implied consent warning to an unconscious Lane, thereby depriving him of his statutory right to withhold his consent for the blood draw. Finally, similar to Myers, the chemical testing officer ordered the withdrawal of blood from the unconscious Lane.

The court concluded that Myers and McNeely were applicable, and they required the suppression of the blood sample seized from Lane. The court reversed the judgment of sentence and remanded for a new trial, in accordance with McNeely and Myers.

Hiring the right attorney can make all the difference in the world, even if your case seems straightforward or you have no criminal record.  If you find yourself arrested for a DUI, make sure you have a capable attorney on your side. Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Zachary B. Cooper will be aggressive and will fight to make sure that your rights are protected so that your family and you can move on with your lives. Call (215) 542-0800 for a free consultation to discuss the legal options that may be available to you.

More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Holds DUI Defendant Not Constitutionally Entitled to Jury Trial, Pennsylvania DUI Blog, August 25, 2016.

Pennsylvania Superior Court Quashes DUI Appeal as Untimely, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, August 10, 2016.

Pennsylvania Police Adjust to New DUI Laws Mandated by Supreme Court, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, July 15, 2016.

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Holds Stop Based on Informant’s Tip Backed by Reasonable Suspicion, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, July 1, 2016.