Stopped for DUI – Should You Refuse to Submit a Blood Sample?
Pennsylvania DUI law is continually evolving, and the recent U.S. Supreme Court case Birchfield vs. North Dakota has far reaching effects for every motorist police investigate for DUI. Under Pennsylvania DUI law, the punishments are the most severe for individuals with blood alcohol concentrations in excess of .16%. For example, an individual who has a Blood Alcohol Content (B.A.C.) level of 0.25% will face a harsher penalty than an individual with a B.A.C. of 0.08%. Additionally, individuals who have committed multiple DUI offenses encounter a greater penalty than first time offenders. In order to determine your B.A.C., police may obtain a sample of your blood for chemical testing.
When asked by police to provide a blood sample for chemical testing, many motorists hesitate. It seems counterintuitive: why voluntarily provide police with evidence that you committed a crime? As a result, many refuse to provide a blood sample. Pennsylvania law previously punished those who refused to submit a blood sample, subjecting them to the same penalty as those with the highest B.A.C. level. However, the U.S. Supreme Court case Birchfield vs. North Dakota drastically changed how many States, including Pennsylvania, treat refusal cases. The U.S. Supreme Court held that States cannot impose criminal penalties upon individuals who refuse to submit to warrantless blood tests; the Pennsylvania Superior Court held similarly in Commonwealth v. Giron. For motorists, this means that you will not be penalized criminally for refusing to provide a blood sample if the police do not have a search warrant.
Prior to Birchfield, a first -time DUI offender who refused to submit a blood sample would face a mandatory 72-hour mandatory minimum sentence upon conviction. Now, that same offender will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 months’ probation. Motorists who refuse blood testing are treated the same as offenders with the lowest B.A.C. levels. However, Birchfield did not limit a State’s ability to impose civil penalties, such as license suspensions, on those who refuse to submit to blood testing. If a motorist refuses to provide a blood sample, he may receive a more lenient sentence, but his license will be suspended for 12 to 18 months. This suspension will be in addition to the mandatory suspension the motorist receives for the DUI conviction. For many, a desire to avoid the additional license suspension associated with refusals will be reason enough to submit a sample.
With these changes in the law, and more anticipated changes to come, it is essential that you contact an experienced DUI attorney who has knowledge of the most recent DUI case law.