Written by Bill DeNardo. Posted in Legal Blog

Will Missouri v. McNeely Have an Impact on PA DUI Laws?

By William DeNardo

PA DUI lawyers would be wise to take heed of the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Missouri v. McNeely (full opinion can be found here:  Missouri v. McNeely.pdf.

The Majority held, in part;

The Question presented here is whether the natural metabolization in the bloodstream presents a per se exigency that justifies an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement for nonconsensual blood testing in all drunk-driving cases. We conclude that it does not, and we hold, consistent with general fourth Amendment principals, that exigency in this context must be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances.

The dicta of this opinion creates a question as whether Pennsylvania’s sentencing enhancement practice would pass constitutional challenge. The opinion establishes that:

1) The natural metabolizaton of alcohol in the blood stream does not create a per se exigency that justifies an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement;
2) Therefore, the state, absent proof of exigency, must obtain a warrant before requiring person to submit to a blood test;
3) Whether the warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable must be determined case by case on the totality of the circumstances.

Currently, the PA statute 3804© allows for a refusal to be used against a person when determining punishment. Whether a person refused is determined by an officer. As Pennsylvania DUI lawyers know, refusing to provide a blood sample creates a sentencing enhancement. This enhancement subjects the convicted toe highest tier / strictest level of punishment. This enhanced punishment is implemented with or without an exigency or with or without the obtaining of a warrant. As an experienced PA DUI lawyer, it would appear that the McNeely decision will ultimately have a major effect on 3804©.