When a motorist drives on a road in Pennsylvania, he or she is “deemed to have given consent” to chemical testing to determine whether he or she is driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance (“DUI”), provided that a police officer first develops “reasonable grounds” to suspect such an impairment. Nonetheless, this “implied consent” statute also grants DUI arrestees the right to refuse chemical testing. While Illinois has its own laws, these principles are also relevant to Illinois DUI defendants.
In a recent case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted an appeal to consider the lawfulness of a warrantless blood draw conducted upon a motorist who, having been arrested for DUI, had then been rendered unconscious by medical personnel before a police officer provided O’Connell warnings and before the officer requested the motorist’s submission to a chemical test. The Philadelphia Municipal Court, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Superior Court all held that a blood draw conducted under these circumstances is impermissible and that the results of the derivative blood test are accordingly inadmissible at trial. Since the seizure of blood violated Pennsylvania’s implied consent statute, 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547, and since no other circumstances justified the failure to obtain a search warrant, the state high court affirmed.
On December 29, 2012, at approximately 3:30 p.m., a Philadelphia Police Officer was on routine patrol when he received a radio call indicating that there was a person screaming in the vicinity of 100 West Penn Street. The radio call warned him to be on the lookout for a maroon SUV. When he arrived on West Penn Street, he observed a vehicle matching that description with its engine running and its brake lights repeatedly flickering on and off. A man later identified as the defendant was sitting in the driver’s seat. The officer activated his siren and emergency lights and pulled up behind the maroon SUV. The defendant exited the vehicle and began to stagger toward the officer, even though he had not been ordered to step out of the vehicle. He tried to speak, but his speech was so slurred that the officer could not understand what he was saying. He detected the smell of alcohol emanating from the defendant, and he observed a bottle of brandy on the front seat of the SUV. The bottle was in plain view, since the defendant had left the driver’s door open when he exited the vehicle. Based upon his observations and experience, the officer believed that the defendant was intoxicated to the point that he required medical attention. He placed him under arrest for DUI and called for a wagon, which transported the defendant to Einstein Medical Center.