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CIVIL LICENSE SUSPENSION PROPER FOR DUI ARRESTEE’S REFUSAL TO SUBMIT TO WARRANTLESS REQUEST FOR BLOOD TEST

In what appears to be an answer to one of the questions left open by Birchfield and its companion decisions, the PA Commonwealth Court has held that the U.S. and PA Constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures* do not apply to the suspension of one’s driver’s license for refusing to submit to a warrantless request of blood for chemical testing. Marchese v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, No. 1996 C.D. 2016 (September 13, 2017).

Marchese received an 18-month license suspension due to his refusal to submit to a warrantless request for a blood test after being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance (DUI). He appealed the suspension, claiming that Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the PA Constitution because it requires the suspension of an individual’s driving privilege based on a refusal to comply with a warrantless request to submit a sample of blood for chemical testing.

As a reminder, the U.S. Supreme Court holding in Birchfield – that a DUI arrestee may not be criminally prosecuted for refusing a request for a warrantless blood test – does not apply to civil license suspensions.

At the outset of its analysis in Marchese, the Court noted that “license suspensions, unlike the DUI proceeding, are civil, not criminal, proceedings.” The Court then noted that it had previously decided that the holding in Birchfield does not apply to civil license suspensions under Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law for refusing to submit to a warrantless request for a blood sample for chemical testing following a DUI arrest.

In sum, the Court concluded that Marchese’s license suspension was proper “because a license suspension under Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law does not involve criminal penalties and thus does not implicate Fourth Amendment rights.” Therefore, “a warrantless request for a blood test under the Implied Consent Law, based upon a reasonable suspicion of DUI, does not violate the Fourth Amendment or the unconstitutional conditions doctrine.”

*U.S. Constitution, Fourth Amendment and PA Constitution, Article I, Section 8

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