PA DUI Law: Supreme Court Limits Birchfield | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys
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PA DUI Law: Supreme Court Limits Birchfield

A DUI arrest and conviction will severely impact every part of your life. You may lose your right to drive for weeks or even months. The fines and increased insurance costs can pose a significant challenge to you and your family. Residents of Pennsylvania can enjoy certain legal rights guaranteed to them by state and federal laws and past court rulings. However, many of these protections can be increased or decreased based on interpretations of the courts. Recently the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has made two rulings that greatly reduce a DUI defendant’s protections offered by a previous U.S. Supreme Court decision. By limiting the protections offered by the Birchfield ruling, the courts have made many DUI cases more difficult for those who were arrested. It’s important to contact a skilled Pittsburgh defense lawyer as soon as possible after a DUI arrest.

The legal team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC has represented many Pittsburgh residents after arrest. We understand how new laws and recent developments in the courts will impact your case. To discuss your arrest and defense with one of our skilled lawyers, call our office today at (412) 281-2146 or fill out our online contact form.

Birchfield Offered to Protect the Rights of Those Suspected of DUI

It’s very important for police to be aware of your rights when they stop you for a suspected traffic violation. Mistakes or malicious actions on their behalf can have a serious impact on your future. The 2016 U.S. Supreme Court Case known as Birchfield v North Dakota offered a strong legal precedent that had been used by many people arrested for suspected DUI. This case determined that both breath and blood tests at a DUI stop are considered to be searches as defined by the fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, it established the following differences between the two:

  • Breath tests: These less invasive tests do not implicate major privacy concerns, and requiring them is reasonable when checking a driver for intoxication. Therefore, a person can be arrested and prosecuted on the results of a breath test that was applied without a court issued warrant.
  • Blood tests: These are much more invasive, and therefore it was found that a person had the right to refuse a warrantless blood draw. This is in part due to the fact that police have less invasive sobriety tests (including breath tests).

How Birchfield Protections for DUI Suspects Have Been Limited

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recently revisited Birchfield and its protections offered to those arrested for DUI. Specifically, the court has addressed the ability to retroactively apply Birchfield to a DUI charge in our state. The court then ruled that Birchfield did not provide a substantive guarantee that protected arrested defendants from conviction after a warrantless blood test. Since Birchfield was found to not be a constitutional guarantee, it cannot be retroactively applied to all DUI cases that involve blood tests.

Instead, Birchfield has been found to establish a procedural requirement for police investigating DUIs. This means that blood tests must either have a warrant, or they must be justifiable under the circumstances of the sobriety stop. If the police properly follow the procedural requirements set forth in this decision, an arrest can be legitimate. Unfortunately for some arrested for DUI, our state’s Supreme Court does not consider them to have a constitutional guarantee against blood tests that do not have a court issued warrant.

Defending Your Rights After Limitations to Birchfield

The Supreme Court’s limitations to Birchfield give the prosecution more flexibility as they build a case to convict you of DUI. However, you still have constitutional rights that protect you from unfair police stops and searches. Our Pittsburgh defense attorneys have represented many people after arrest, and we know how to investigate every detail of the prosecutor’s case against you. Even though Birchfield has been limited, you can still successfully seek a dismissal of your charges due to an inappropriate police search. Winning your case can depend on one or several of the following arguments:

  • Police made errors in testing your sobriety: Law enforcement officers sometimes make mistakes when conducting roadside sobriety tests such as stop-and-turn tests or horizontal eye gaze exams. Police can also fail to properly use breathalyzer machines.
  • Police violated your privacy with a blood test: Even though the limitations on Birchfield have come into effect, the police cannot simply demand a blood test without proper cause. Your fourth amendment rights can be violated with an unnecessary blood test.
  • Evidence collected was improperly handled: Police or lab technicians often make mistakes when handling a suspect’s blood or urine samples. This can result in unfair test results that greatly harm the defendant.

Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys LLC Can Help After A DUI Arrest

It’s important for you to have a lawyer who understands Pennsylvania law and how the courts constantly change their views on our constitutional rights. While recent limitations on Birchfield can make it more difficult to defend a DUI case, there are still many options to protect your rights and your future. Our lawyers have investigated many arrests in the Pittsburgh area. We understand how each case is different, and how police errors or abuse can greatly harm an innocent defendant. Do not hesitate in contacting skilled legal counsel after you or a loved one have been arrested.

Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to speak with a knowledgeable Pittsburgh DUI defense lawyer. You can call our office at (412) 281-2146 or fill out our online contact form.

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