Under Pennsylvania DUI law, refusing to submit to a breath test during a stop due to suspicion of DUI can result in a suspension of your license. In some cases, you may be able to come to an agreement with the arresting officer and prosecuting attorney that allows you to avoid a license suspension regardless of the fact that you refused to provide a breath sample. In Hudak v. Commonwealth, however, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the Department of Transportation (DOT) is not bound by a third party agreement and can impose a license suspension regardless of acceptance of the terms of a plea bargain agreement. If you are facing DUI charges and refused to submit to a breath test you should confer with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI attorney to analyze the circumstances surrounding your arrest and discuss your available defenses.
Facts of the Case
Allegedly, police stopped the suspect for driving an ATV on a public road without lights. The officer observed an odor of alcohol on the suspect’s breath, after which the suspect admitted to consuming seven beers in the previous hour. The suspect submitted to field sobriety tests, after which the suspect was arrested. Following his arrest, the suspect would not submit to a breath test. He was informed of the consequences for refusing testing pursuant to the Implied Consent Law but still refused to submit to the test.
Reportedly, at the suspect’s preliminary hearing, the parties agreed that if the suspect participated in ARD the arresting officer would not notify the DOT of the suspect’s refusal to submit to chemical testing. The arresting officer subsequently received notice that a non-jury trial was scheduled for the suspect, which caused him to believe the suspect had decided not to proceed with ARD. As such, the officer sent DOT notification of the suspect’s refusal to submit to the breath test. The suspect subsequently received notice that his license was suspended for one year for refusing to submit to the breath test. The suspect appealed his suspension and a hearing was held on the matter. At the hearing, the arresting officer testified that the parties had an agreement that the officer would not send DOT notice of the suspect’s refusal to submit to the breath test and that he only sent the notice because he mistakenly believed the suspect had opted not to participate in ARD. The trial court sustained the suspect’s appeal. DOT then appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
Decision of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
The issue on appeal was whether the trial court erred in finding DOT’s suspension of the suspect’s license was improper due to the suspect’s agreement with the prosecuting attorney. The court reviewed the grounds for suspending an individual’s license for failure to submit to a breath test and noted if DOT met its burden the licensee must then prove his or her refusal was not knowing or conscious to avoid a suspension. DOT argued that it could not be held to the terms of a third party agreement and that the prosecution could not negotiate away the DOT right to suspend a license. The court agreed with DOT’s reasoning, stating the court frequently held that DOT was not bound by terms of an agreement made by another party and that any such agreement could not take away DOT’s right to suspend a license.
The court also rejected the suspect’s argument that the arresting officer was acting on behalf of DOT in forming the plea agreement, finding no evidence that supported the argument DOT authorized the officer to act as its agent. Finally, the court found that DOT met is the burden of proof with regards to the license suspension. As such, the court reversed the trial court ruling.
Meet with an Experienced Pennsylvania DUI Attorney
If you are charged with a DUI and refused to submit to a breath test, you should retain an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to discuss what defenses may be available to the charges you face. Zachary B. Cooper is a seasoned criminal defense attorney who can assist you in planning your defense. He can be contacted at (215) 542-0800 to set up a consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Acceptance of ARD for a Pennsylvania DUI Charge Constitutes a First Offense for Purposes of License Suspension Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, October 10, 2018
Pennsylvania Drivers Suspected of DUI Required to Submit Two Breath Samples to Avoid License Suspension Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, September 25, 2018
Pennsylvania Superior Court Quashes DUI Defendant’s Appeal For Lack of Jurisdiction Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, October 18, 2017