Blood Draw Refusals Can Be Used as Evidence in DUI Cases

On Behalf of | Aug 16, 2019 | DUI

In July of 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a DUI defendant’s refusal to submit to a blood draw can be presented as evidence at trial.

In May of 2015, a Pennsylvania man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. When taken to the station, he refused to allow his blood to be drawn for chemical testing. During his trial in April of 2016, the prosecutor introduced his refusal as evidence because the state operates under implied consent. The law says that drivers operating vehicles on public roads implicitly agree to be subjected to blood or urine tests if they are arrested for DUIs.

The defendant filed a motion to the trial court, arguing that such evidence should not have been admitted because it violated his Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. The trial court agreed, citing Birchfield v. North Dakota, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that implied consent laws do not mean that a defendant can be charged with a crime for refusing a breath test.

The prosecutor appealed the trial court’s decision, and the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the trial court erred in allowing the defendant a new trial without the refusal being presented as evidence. It stated that in past cases, federal and state courts found that individuals facing DUI charges cannot lawfully refuse a chemical test.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court’s decision. It stated that while Birchfield made it unlawful to threaten an individual arrested for DUI with charges of another crime for refusing a warrantless blood test, it did not make such refusal inadmissible as evidence.

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