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.