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State Supreme Court rules in favor of DUI arrest procedure shift

A Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling has changed how police address DUI suspects and how prosecutors subsequently handle those cases.

At issue is whether DUI defendants are informed that there are consequences for refusing to submit to a blood or breath to determine blood alcohol content, even when they agree to submit to testing.

The case, Comm. v. Krenzel out of Chester County, dates to a November 2016 DUI arrest. The Superior Court opinion states that the arresting officer asked the defendant if she was willing to submit to a blood test, not telling the defendant about enhanced penalties for refusal.

The defendant appealed alleging that the blood draw was “warrantless” because “alleged consent to the blood draw was not voluntary,” given that she was not advised of the increased penalties.

The court ruled in support of that claim, that the defendant was “not specifically informed of her rights regarding consent” though police did not coerce her. “However, there is no dispute that the police asked Appellant to go to the hospital for a chemical blood test and she complied without receiving a recitation of her rights…. Appellant did not make a knowing and conscious choice of whether to submit to the blood draw.”

That case was remanded for a new trial.

But the reach of the ruling will go further than just that one case.

District Attorney Rob Greene said he isn’t sure how many cases will be impacted but said “I would guess a dozen or two.”

“This applies even if the suspect already has consented to the testing,” he explained. “Essentially, an officer can have a suspect consent to chemical testing as was the circumstance in the Krenzel case, where the officer acted completely professionally, and then the officer will have to explain to the suspect who already consented, all of the bad things that can happen if the suspect does not consent.”

The form that includes that information is referred to as a DL-26.

In county court, the outgrowth of this case has been defendants entering pleas to lesser DUI charges.

Greene said those charges are “not based on BAC, but rather that the defendant was incapable of safe driving; therefore, the blood/breath test is not used to prove this type of violation.”

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