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Blood Testing for DUI- No Duty of Police to Inform for Use in Criminal Prosecution

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The PA Supreme Court recently held that Article 1, Section 8, relating to searches and seizures, does not place a duty upon an officer to advise a defendant involved in a crash that their blood test may be used for a criminal investigation against them.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, DUI Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

In a recent majority decision, the PA Supreme Court held that when seeking consent from an individual for the testing of his blood for the presence of drugs or alcohol following a traffic accident, the officer need not inform the individual that the results of the test may be used for criminal or prosecutorial purposes.

In Commonwealth v. Roger Smith, 88 MAP 2011 (September 25, 2013), the PA Supreme Court reversed the decision of the PA Superior Court and the trial court, which suppressed the blood evidence used by the police in the prosecution of the defendant.  The facts there were as follows:

The Defendant, "Smith", was involved in a three car accident at an intersection at 11 am, the morning following at night of drinking.  An off-duty officer (Agostino) testified that as part of his investigation he asked the Smith to submit to chemical blood tests due to the seriousness of the accident and the potential fatality involved, in an effort to eliminate the possibility that alcohol or a controlled substance was involved. Officer Agostino informed Smith he could refuse chemical testing if he chose to do so, and with that information, Smith agreed to submit to the tests. Smith was not in handcuffs, not in custody, and Officer Agostino did not smell alcohol on or about Smith at any time during their interaction. Officer Buckley transported Smith in the front seat of his vehicle to St. Mary's Hospital for the chemical testing and returned him to the accident scene upon the completion. Smith testified that he was not threatened, intimidated or placed under arrest and that he submitted to the chemical testing to assist in Officer Agostino's investigation. Smith testified that he never asked Officer Agostino as to why he had to submit to a chemical blood test or anything related to the blood draw.

The Court issued it's decision based upon the rule that under an objective view of the totality of the circumstances presented, could "establish that he had no notice of the criminal investigative purpose of the blood test".  Here, the facts set forth clearly showed that there was an accident with fatalities, the Defendant was a college graduate, and was informed that he did not have to provide a sample.  Therefore, there was no additional duty to inform that the test could be used in a criminal prosecution.

This Case is Different than those that require or trigger the "Implied Consent Warnings"

This case highlights the difference when an operator of a motor vehicle is placed under arrest for a DUI.  In those instances, an operator is given an "implied consent" warning.  They are made aware that their blood test may be used to prosecute them for a DUI and that they may not provide consent.  However, as a result of such a denial, they will lose their operating privileges for one (1) year. 

If you've been arrested or charged with a DUI, it's necessary to have a lawyer review the facts of your arrest and any testing performed upon you by the police or a hospital.  You may contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

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