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Birchfield and Blood Draws – New Developments in DUI law

The United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota deemed warrantless blood draws in driving under the influence arrests unconstitutional. This has far-reaching consequences in Pennsylvania, a so-called “implied consent” state, in which a motorist is deemed to have consented to a test of his blood or breath in the event of a suspected DUI.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s Birchfield decision, anyone stopped for a suspected DUI who refused a blood draw would potentially be subject to increased criminal penalties as if he or she had registered a blood alcohol level of .16% or higher, the highest tier for DUI sentencing purposes. Warnings given to motorists made this clear in advising of their “right” to refusal. In sentencing terms, refusals for a first offense called for a mandatory 72 hours incarceration and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. Both minimum and maximum penalties increased dramatically for second and subsequent offenses.

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