A recent decision by the United States Supreme Court will have a major impact on DUI cases across the Country including Pennsylvania. Until now a police officer was not required to obtain a search warrant for a driver’s blood if they suspected impairment. The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in BIRCHFIELD v. NORTH DAKOTA changed all this. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-1468_8n59.pdf The Court held that “The Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving but not warrantless blood tests”. The Court went onto say that breath tests do not implicate significant privacy concerns unlike blood tests which require the piercing of the skin and extract a part of the subject’s body.
In Pennsylvania this will have an significant impact on how DUI cases are prosecuted. District Attorney’s Offices in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks and Delaware Counties are deciding what they will do with cases presently in the system that are affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling. Prosecution of cases in which a breath test was involved should have no impact since again the Court ruled that a search warrant is not required for a breath test. On the other hand if an individual has been charged with a DUI and submitted to a blood test BIRCHFIELD will have an impact on the outcome.
EXAMPLES OF HOW BIRCHFIELD DECISION WILL AFFECT CASES
Prior to Birchfield an individual charged with a first offense DUI and a blood alcohol level of a .16% or greater was facing a mandatory 72-hours imprisonment in addition to a 1 years license suspension. Now that same individual could be looking at NO JAIL time and NO LICENSE suspension if the officer did not obtain a warrant for the blood.
Prior to Birchfield an individual charged with a 2nd offense DUI and a blood alcohol level of a .16% or greater was facing a mandatory 90 days imprisonment and 18 month license suspension. Now that same individual could be looking at 5 days imprisonment and a 1 year license suspension if the officer did not obtain a warrant for the blood.
Example # 3
Prior to Birchfield an individual charged with a 3rd offense DUI and a blood alcohol level of a .16% or greater was facing a mandatory 1 year imprisonment and 18 month license suspension. Now that same individual could be looking at 10 days imprisonment and a 1 year license suspension if the officer did not obtain a warrant for the blood.
As you can see from the examples above this decision can have a major impact on an individuals case whether they are facing a 1st, 2nd or even a 3rd offense DUI charge. In fact, many counties have already begun to implement changes due to the Supreme Court decision giving some driver’s the benefit of this decision. It is even more important now that DUI attorneys dissect their clients case to determine if this ruling will have any impact. Moving forward it appears that the District Attorney’s Office in the various counties throughout Pennsylvania will approach DUI cases affected by BIRCHFIELD on a case by cases basis.
Law enforcement agencies along with PENNDOT have already begun making adjustments in order to comply with the new standards set forth by the Supreme Court immediately. However there are still many cases in the system where a blood test was drawn without consent which is now a clear violation of an individuals 4th Amendment Right to unreasonable searches and seizures.
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 DUI 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.