THE PENNSYLVANIA SUPERIOR COURT ISSUED A PUBLISHED OPINION AFFIRMING THE SUPPRESSION OF BLOOD TEST RESULTS IN A DRUG RELATED DUI DUE TO THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT’S DECISION IN BIRCHFIELD v. NORTH DAKOTA
The defendant was charged with a drug related DUI after he was stopped leaving the scene of an accident and marijuana was located inside his vehicle. The police read him the DL-26 Form, which advised him that he could face increased criminal penalties if he refused to submit to a blood test. He submitted to the blood draw and subsequently filed a motion to suppress the results based on the Birchfield decision. The Commonwealth’s argument was twofold: i) Birchfield does not apply to drug related DUI’s because warrantless breath tests relied upon in Birchfield are not useful in detecting controlled substances; and ii) even if Birchfield applies, the defendant’s consent was not coerced because the penalties for drug related DUI’s are the same as a refusal in an alcohol related DUI. The Superior Court ruled that there is no distinction between drug or alcohol DUI’s, “Birchfield requires that a blood test be authorized either by a warrant (or case-specific exigency), or by individual consent not based on the pain of criminal consequences,” regardless of the substance suspected to be affecting the individual. Regarding the Commonwealth’s second argument, the Superior Court ruled that a reasonable person in a drug related DUI would believe that he was facing increased penalties based on his refusal, even though the penalties were not actually increased. Both the majority and dissenting opinions explicitly noted Birchfield’s enormous impact on DUI investigations.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE OPINION – COMMONWEALTH v. ENNELS, 2017 PA Super 217