The Mazza Law Group, P.C.
2790 W. College Ave., Suite 800
State College, PA 16801 March 10, 2016
(814) 237-6255

Superior Court rejects enhanced penalties in DUI refusal cases

In a decision issued January 31, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania decided that increased penalties may not be imposed as a result of an individual exercising his or her right to refuse a blood test in a DUI refusal case.  In Commonwealth v. Giron, the court noted the US Supreme Court’s decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota, which held that consent for a blood test is not given voluntarily if done so to avoid increased criminal penalties.  Without a warrant or exigent circumstances, an individual cannot be subjected to enhanced criminal penalties, such as are called for in Pennsylvania’s DUI law, for exercising his or her constitutional right to refuse a blood test.

This case could have a profound impact on an individual’s sentence for DUI, particularly those with prior offenses both in terms of the mandatory minimum and the maximum possible sentence.  For a second offender, the mandatory sentence with refusal is 90 days minimum to five years maximum, but as a general impairment offense, the mandatory sentence would only be five days minimum to six months maximum.

In its decision, the court did not address issues involving non-criminal penalties, such as a driver’s license suspension for a refusal.  In fact, the Supreme Court noted approval of civil penalties for refusal to take a blood test, such as the automatic 12-18 month suspension for a refusal, regardless of whether there is a conviction.

If you or a loved one are charged with a DUI, or have been convicted and sentenced for a DUI “with refusal” you should discuss this ruling with an experienced DUI lawyer to find out whether your minimum and/or maximum sentence may be reduced if you take prompt action.

To speak with an experienced DUI lawyer about your rights to refuse to take a blood test, call the Mazza Law Group today.

DUI blood test – new development in law

New Developments in law from the Supreme Court involving a DUI blood test.

In a decision last week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling which has already started to change the way DUI cases will be prosecuted and defended in Pennsylvania.

In Birchfield v. N. Dakota, the Supreme Court held that a driver placed under arrest under suspicion of DUI may not be subjected to a warrantless blood test to test for alcohol, but may be subjected to a warrantless breath test.  The Court held that the DUI blood test is much more intrusive than a breath test, and requires that police obtain a warrant.

Also at issue was whether a driver may be penalized criminally for failure to take a blood test.  Since a driver has a constitutional right to refuse a warrantless search, the court’s decision reasoned that such a refusal should not result in increased criminal penalties.  However, non-criminal consequences, such as a driver’s license suspension, may still be permitted.

In Pennsylvania, many jurisdictions utilize blood testing in DUI enforcement.  In requesting that a motorist consent to a blood draw, the police have been advising motorists that they may refuse, but they face increased penalties if convicted of the Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol after refusing.

This scheme is being challenged in DUI prosecutions across the state as violating the Supreme Court’s ruling which prohibits states from imposing criminal penalties (such as an increased sentence) when individuals refuse a blood test.  This case could even impact those who have agreed to take such a test to avoid such increased penalties.  Defense lawyers are preparing to file motions to suppress blood test results in many of these cases.

At The Mazza Law Group, the DUI defense lawyers have decades of experience. If you find yourself charged with a DUI or related offense, contact us for a consultation.

PA License Suspension for DUI Reversed

The Commonwealth Court has reversed a driver’s license suspension because the driver’s conviction for DUI was not reported to PennDOT for ten years after her conviction.  In Gingrich v. PennDOT, 748 C.D. 2015 , the driver was convicted of a DUI in 2004, but that conviction was not reported to PennDOT until 2014.  The driver received notice that her license was to be suspended for a period of one year.  This created problems for the driver, who had employment that required a license, as well as family responsibilities for which she could have made other arrangements had she been aware of the suspension.

While the delay in the license suspension was not due to any fault on the part of PennDOT, the court held that, under these limited circumstances, that the court could reverse the suspension.  Because there had been an extended period of time without further offenses, the public safety rationale for the suspension no longer existed.  The court held that the standard for relief involved the following factors:

  1. there is an extraordinary delay in the suspension;
  2. there are a lack of additional offenses for an extended period of time; and,
  3. the driver can show that she is prejudiced by the delay in the suspension.

License Suspension

In Pennsylvania, a DUI conviction gets reported by the Court to PennDOT and a notice of suspension will be mailed to the driver.  A driver can either submit acknowledgement of the suspension or file an appeal.  An appeal is filed at the Court of Common Pleas in the County the operator resides in. The fees for filing a driver’s license suspension appeal vary between counties.

If you have legal questions about a Pennsylvania driver’s license suspension, or are charged with a driving offense, the experienced defense attorneys at the Mazza Law Group can help.  Call today for a consultation!