The Mazza Law Group, P.C.
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State College, PA 16801 March 10, 2016
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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.