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Pennsylvania Court Discusses Vacating Convictions and Sentences Post-Birchfield

Due to the Supreme Court of the United States’ Ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota the landscape of DUI law in Pennsylvania and throughout the country continues to change.  In other words, not only have many states modified laws that were deemed unconstitutional, but many convictions have been vacated as well. For example, in a recent case decided by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, a defendant’s pre-Birchfield DUI conviction was reversed, and his enhanced DUI  sentence was deemed illegal. If you live in Pennsylvania and have a previous DUI conviction or are charged with a DUI offense currently, it is in your best interest to retain a skillful Pennsylvania DUI attorney to aid you in striving to protect your rights.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the defendant was convicted of multiple DUI offenses in 2015, including DUI – refusal of blood testing. He was sentenced to forty-two to eighty-four months imprisonment. He filed post-sentence motions, which were denied. He then appealed setting forth several arguments, including the assertion that the Birchfield ruling required the court to vacate his conviction and deem his enhanced sentence illegal.

Vacating Sentences Post-Birchfield

The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that the trial court made an error in allowing the prosecution to introduce the fact that the defendant refused to submit to a warrantless blood test as evidence of his guilt, noting that it was admissible at trial. The court ruled, however, that the defendant’s conviction for DUI – refusal of blood testing must be vacated. The court stated that at the time of the defendant’s arrest, the refusal to submit to a blood test was not an independent criminal offense. Instead, it was a fact that allowed the court to impose enhanced penalties for the violation of the DUI statute.

In the subject case, the trial court convicted the defendant of one count of DUI – general impairment, but also convicted him of a second count of DUI – general impairment that included the fact that he refused to submit to a blood test. The defendant did not commit two separate offenses, however, or violate two provisions of the DUI statute. Thus, the court found that the trial court erred in convicting him of both counts.

Further, the court held that the versions of the DUI statute under which the defendant was convicted were unconstitutional, as they allowed for the imposition of enhanced criminal penalties on people who refused to submit to a blood test without a warrant. As such, any application of the unconstitutional provisions allowing for an enhanced sentence rendered the sentence illegal. The court, therefore, vacated the defendant’s sentence and remanded him for resentencing to ensure his sentence was not based on his refusal to submit to a warrantless blood test.

Speak with a Capable DUI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a Pennsylvania DUI offense, it is in your best interest to speak with a capable attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to assert. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney who will vigorously pursue the best outcome available under the facts surrounding your arrest. You can reach Mr. Cooper at (215) 542-0800 or via the form online to set up a consultation.