Pennsylvania Blood Draw Without Probable Cause

Filed under: DUI by Contributor @ July 24, 2014

The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently held that consent to a blood test could be given even if a defendant is not told that the results of the blood test could be used against him in criminal proceedings. The case arose from a car crash on Street Road in Bensalem, where a pedestrian in a motorized wheelchair had been struck and was seriously injured. The defendant, who did not appear to the police to be impaired, identified himself as the person who had struck the victim.

As the scene unfolded, the police requested a blood draw from the defendant, a standard procedure in cases where there was a fatality or near-fatality. The defendant agreed, but was never given any sort of consent form and was never informed that the results of the test could be used against him in criminal proceedings. The blood test was positive for metabolites of marijuana and the defendant was charged with DUI.

In court, the defendant moved to suppress the results of the blood test. The initial decisions of the trial court and Superior Court were to suppress the results; however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court then ordered the decision to be reconsidered in light of Commonwealth v. Smith, 77 A.3d 562 (Pa. 2013). Generally, to require a blood draw, the police must have probable cause. Where probable cause is lacking the police can still draw blood by consent of the driver. Here, the Superior Court found that the defendant had given his consent because he knew what was going on, what he was being asked to do, and he was asked whether he consented to having his blood drawn. In a “totality of the circumstances” test, the Superior Court found that these factors outweighed the fact that the defendant was never given any consent form or told that the results could be used against him in criminal proceedings.

However, it is important to note that this is an unpublished memorandum opinion by the Superior Court (Commonwealth v. Laureano), limiting the potential scope of its use. If you or anyone you know have been accused of DUI, please contact an attorney at Fairlie & Lippy immediately.

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