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Pennsylvania Court Analyzes Reasonable Grounds for Suspicion of DUI in License Suspension Cases

Under the Pennsylvania Implied Consent Law, a driver who is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol but refuses to submit to chemical testing can suffer a suspension of his or her license. To suspend a license pursuant to the Implied Consent Law, the Department of Transportation must prove several elements, one of which is reasonable grounds for suspicion of DUI.

In Dillon v. Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Court recently analyzed what constitutes reasonable grounds as it pertains to the civil context of license suspension. If you were charged with a DUI, you should meet with an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to discuss the facts surrounding your arrest and how they affect your case.

The Defendant’s Traffic Stop

Allegedly, an officer observed the defendant swerving in the roadway and effected a traffic stop. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer noticed the defendant had difficulty identifying his license in a stack of cards and carried a strong odor of alcohol. Additionally, the defendant’s speech was slightly slurred and his eyes were bloodshot and glassy. The officer asked the defendant if he had been drinking and the defendant replied that he’d had a few drinks with dinner. The officer asked the defendant to submit to a breath test, but the defendant refused. The officer then transported the defendant to the police station.

Reportedly, it is disputed whether the defendant was read or given the implied consent warnings on form DL-26 while at the police station. Regardless, the defendant did not sign the form and again refused to undergo a breath test. His license was subsequently suspended for one year for knowingly refusing to submit to chemical testing. He appealed, arguing that there were no reasonable grounds for the traffic stop. On appeal, the court affirmed.

Reasonable Suspicion of DUI in License Suspension Cases

The Department of Transportation must meet a four-part test to sustain an appeal of a license suspension under the Implied Consent law. The first part is that the Department must show the defendant was arrested for driving under the influence by an officer who had reasonable grounds to believe the defendant was operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The Department must then show the defendant was asked to submit to a chemical test, refused, and was warned that the refusal could result in a license suspension.

The court stated that reasonable grounds for the suspicion of DUI exist where a reasonable person observing the facts as they appeared to the officer would believe the defendant was under the influence of alcohol. The court noted that the authority to suspend a license is not conditioned on the validity of the underlying arrest. As such, even if an arrest is unlawful a driver’s license can be suspended if it is shown the arresting officer had a valid reason to suspect the driver was under the influence of alcohol. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s license suspension.

Meet with an Experienced Pennsylvania DUI Attorney to Discuss Your Charges

Pennsylvania imposes different standards for convicting a suspect of a DUI and suspending a DUI suspect’s license. If you are charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, you should meet with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI attorney to determine how your actions during your arrest may affect your case. Zachary B. Cooper is adept at defending Pennsylvania residents charged with DUI and will work diligently to help you protect your rights. He can be contacted at (215) 542-0800 to schedule a meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Circumstantial Evidence Provides Sufficient Grounds to Charge a Suspect with DUI Under Pennsylvania Law, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, July 12, 2018