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DUI Testing Changes

September 22, 2017

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

The United States Supreme Court case concerned with the constitutionality of DUI testing will lead to changes in how DUI stops are handled around Pennsylvania. The way York County, PA law enforcement now handles these stops illustrates what might happen now if you are suspected of driving under the influence.

The Supreme Court DUI Testing Case:

In the case of Birchfield v. North Dakota, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against three separate defendants who refused to take mandatory tests. Birchfield challenged a warrantless blood test in North Dakota. A Minnesota man challenged the constitutionality of breath testing. The Court applied the search incident to arrest doctrine to evaluate whether each type of alcohol test is legal. The breath test and blood test are both searches, but that the breath test is relatively unintrusive. The breath test can also achieve the same result as the blood test, with less intrusion on the subject’s privacy. The ruling has obvious implications for law enforcement agencies around the country.

Drivers cannot be charged with an additional offense if they refuse to take a blood test absent a search warrant. Previously, Pennsylvania law allowed a DUI suspect to be charged with a more-serious offense if they refused to take a blood test. This will no longer be the case, though police who stop a suspected drunk driver can still attempt to get a blood test instead of a breath test. This process is likely to work like the DUI arrest process in York County, PA.

The DUI Arrest Process in York County, PA:

The York Daily Record summarizes the standard DUI arrest process in York County, PA.

  • When a DUI suspect is placed under arrest, law enforcement will ask the individual to take a blood test. If the individual declines to do so, the state’s Department of Transportation will later suspend the driver’s license for a minimum of one year.
  • If this is the driver’s first DUI offense, the officer can decide whether to ask for a warrant.
  • The police officer will get a warrant and ask again for a blood sample and explain the consequences of not complying with the warrant. If the individual refuses again, he or she will face added charges.

Pennsylvania Vehicle Code 1547 lists penalties for refusing to take a DUI test. The first offense brings a one-year license suspension. This is in addition to whatever punishment the court imposes if you are convicted of DUI.

You Have Options:

If you are asked to take a breath test, the obvious best step is to consent. If the arresting officer suspects you are under the influence of something other than alcohol, the breath test would be worthless. This is where the blood test issue becomes more serious. You will probably have to take a blood test.

If you are facing DUI charges in or around Philadelphia, call van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim right away. We promise competent representation to protect your rights in court and before.



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