State Supreme Court: Motorists cannot choose their chemical test

by | Jan 30, 2016 | Drunk Driving

Pennsylvania’s implied consent law essentially dictates that any licensed motorist in the state is presumed to have already provided their tacit permission to submit to any chemical testing for alcohol or drugs once they take the wheel. Consequently, those drivers suspected of driving under the influence who refuse to submit to any chemical testing — blood, breath or urine — will see their license suspended.

Interestingly enough, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was recently called upon to decide if drivers stopped on suspicion of DUI have a right under state law to request a certain type of chemical testing and, by extension, whether their unwillingness to submit to one or two types of chemical testing constitutes refusal under the implied consent law.

The case in question involved an attorney who was pulled over on suspicion of impaired driving back in June 2013. Here, he requested that the officer administer a breath or urine test as opposed to a blood test over medical concerns.

The officer, in turn, indicated that decision-making authority regarding the type of chemical test administered rested solely with law enforcement and asked the attorney to sign a form indicating that he had refused the blood test. While the attorney complied, he also made a notation on the form indicating that he had been willing to submit to either a urine test or a breath test.

Once his license was suspended, the attorney challenged the action in Superior Court and emerged victorious. Shortly thereafter, however, the Commonwealth Court reversed the decision and reinstated the license suspension.

On appeal to the state’s high court, the attorney essentially argued that a section of state law grants motorists the right to request a particular type of chemical test, and by refusing to administer an alternative chemical test, the officer essentially violated this law and deprived the attorney of his right to defend himself.  

The Supreme Court found these arguments unavailing, holding that the section of state law being referenced covered drivers involved in accidents who wanted to secure evidence of a negative chemical test result in the event they were later hit with a civil suit.

Indeed, the court was unanimous in holding that motorists have no right to request a particular chemical test and nothing short of unconditional assent is required.

“A motorist arrested for DUI is subject to any and all tests, and effectively relinquishes any right to choose his preferred test over an officer’s,” reads the opinion.

It’s worth noting that the attorney has already indicated that he will likely request a new argument given the importance of the issue and the fact that three spots on the court were empty at the time the decision was reached.

Stay tuned for updates.

If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to protect your rights and your future.

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