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DAUGHTER’S DORM IS NOT A “PLACE FOR EMERGENCY MEDICAL TREATMENT” : Violation of OLL results in 60 day jail sentence.

The PA Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Kriegler, 62 MDA 2015 (December 1, 2015), holding that it is entirely appropriate for police to charge a driver with Driving Under Suspension (DUI-related) when that person has been granted – but has failed to comply with the restrictions applicable to – an Occupational Limited License (OLL).

FACTS

Kriegler was operating his pickup truck when he was stopped by police. Police learned after the stop that Kriegler held an Occupational Limited License (OLL). OLLs are also often referred to as “Bread-and-Butter” licenses. Kriegler had been issued his OLL because he was one of the limited number of people who were suspended due to a DUI but, nonetheless, qualified for an OLL.

Driving in violation of one of the restrictions or conditions of an OLL constitutes a summary offense punishable by a $200 fine and the revocation of the OLL. Kriegler, however, was charged instead with DUS (DUI-related) which carries far greater penalties, including a mandatory jail sentence.

Kriegler admitted at trial that he and his daughter were not on their way to obtain medical emergency treatment; they did not ask the police officer for assistance; they did not mention the migraine until after the officer made an initial check of the status of appellant’s license on the officer’s traffic computer; and appellant’s daughter was able to drive home after the traffic stop.

Clearly, the trial court did not believe that Kriegler’s daughter was unable to drive due to a migraine headache. Kriegler was thus found guilty of DUS (DUI-related) and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 60 days in the Centre County Correctional Facility and a $500 fine, plus costs.

Kriegler filed an appeal, asserting that (1) the facts established that he was NOT driving in violation of the OLL statute because he was driving due to a medical emergency and (2) even if he was in violation of the OLL statute, he should have been charged with violating the OLL statute instead of DUS (DUI-related).

ISSUES

(1) Was Kriegler properly charged with DUS (DUI-related) rather than a violation of the OLL statute and (2) was there sufficient evidence to support his conviction for violating the OLL restrictions?

HOLDING

Kriegler was not driving within the permissible restrictions of his OLL and was therefore also in violation of the DUS (DUI-related) statute.

REASONING

The Superior Court’s reasoning is substantially set forth below:

KRIEGLER’S DRIVING WAS NOT FOR “EMERGENCY MEDICAL TREATMENT”

PennDOT is authorized, in certain circumstances, to grant restricted or limited driving privileges to alleviate the hardships of a DUI-related suspension. The issuance of an OLL is not automatic. There are strict eligibility requirements. The holder of an OLL must comply with conditions and restrictions of issuance. Once a driver has been issued an occupational limited license they are limited, generally, to operating a vehicle to their employment or school or … “to and from a place for scheduled or emergency medical examination or treatment.”

It is the “emergency medical treatment” provision that is at issue in the present case.
The holder of an OLL is permitted to drive his or her vehicle in order to go to a scheduled appointment or to obtain emergency medical treatment. “Emergency medical treatment” as used in the OLL Law means the urgent care or management of a patient by a medical professional for a disease or injury. Here, Kriegler’s act of driving his daughter to her dormitory so she could lie down was not the equivalent of obtaining emergency medical treatment. He was, therefore, not operating the vehicle within the lawful confines provided in the statute.

THE CHARGE OF DUS (DUI-RELATED) WAS APPROPRIATE

One principle of law in this Commonwealth is the “General/Specific” rule of interpreting statutes. This rule says that whenever a general provision in a statute is in conflict with a special provision in the same or another statute, the two shall be construed, if possible, so that effect may be given to both. Further, if the conflict between the two provisions is irreconcilable, the special provisions shall prevail and shall be construed as an exception to the general provision. In other words, the “specific” trumps the “general” in such circumstances.

Kriegler argued that, under this rule, he should have been charged with and convicted of the “more specific” (and “lesser”) offense of violating the conditions/restrictions of an OLL and not the “more general” offense of driving under DUI-related suspension. However, the Court noted that the “general/specific rule” of statutory construction in the context of criminal prosecutions has been abrogated and no longer applies. Even so, the Court concluded that the DUS (DUI-related) and OLL statutes do not irreconcilably conflict. Accordingly, when a driver with a DUI-suspension violates a condition or restriction of his OLL, he is, in effect, driving under DUI-suspension (since he is driving outside the permissible confines of the OLL).

Lastly, the OLL Law clearly states that a holder of an OLL remains under suspension and is strictly limited to driving within narrow confines of the OLL. Therefore, the OLL sets forth the only time a driver with a DUI-suspension may operate a vehicle. Thus, it follows that when a holder of an OLL operates a vehicle outside the conditions and restrictions of an OLL, he is, in effect, driving under DUI-suspension.

Accordingly, the Court concluded that it was therefore “entirely appropriate” to charge and convict Kriegler under the stiffer penalty provisions of the Driving Under Suspension statute.

http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/J-A26008-15o%20-%201024535585759961.pdf?cb=1

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