In 2016, the US Supreme Court issued a decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota which changed the way that DUI cases are handled in Pennsylvania. Read more about that decision here. One issue that the Birchfield Court seemed to leave alone was civil penalties for a driver refusing to submit to chemical testing (blood or breath test). But, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has now addressed the issue directly following the Birchfield decision.
In Boseman v. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, the defendant was arrested for suspicion of DUI and was asked to submit to a blood test. The police said that she refused to submit to the test and her driver’s license was suspended for 1 year as a result of that refusal. In her appeal, the defendant argued two issues. First, that she should have been given a second chance to submit to the blood test before the police decided that she had refused. Second, because of the new requirements under Birchfield, the defendant argued that the police should have obtained a search warrant before requesting that she submit to the blood test.
In its decision, the Commonwealth Court said that the police were not required to give the defendant a second chance to take the blood test. The Court said that the police are not required to try to convince drivers to try to take the test or wait for them to make a decision. Further, once a driver has refused, he cannot later change his mind and agree to take the test.
The Commonwealth Court in Boseman also declined to overturn the defendant’s license suspension in light of the Birchfield decision. The Commonwealth Court essentially said that the Birchfield decision did not apply to the defendant’s case because her license was suspended in an administrative proceeding under the civil Implied Consent statute rather than as a result of a criminal penalty in a criminal statute. The Commonwealth Court further said that the Implied Consent warnings that were read to the defendant made it clear that it was not a crime to refuse to submit to the blood test, but that there would be a license suspension as a result of the refusal. Therefore, the Commonwealth Court said that the license suspension was appropriate.
What does this mean for Berks County drivers? At this time, the new DUI requirements under Birchfield do not apply to license suspensions for refusal to submit to chemical testing. The license suspension process will continue to be handled by PennDot as it was prior to the Birchfield decision. But, there is a lot of change on the criminal side of things and we’ll give you some updates on that soon.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Reading, PA and your license has been suspended because the police said you refused to submit to chemical testing, you may be able to fight your license suspension with PennDot. Contact our experienced Berks County DUI lawyers before you miss any deadlines. Call us at 610-372-5128 or email at [email protected]