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Search Warrants Now Required in Some Cases of Driving Under The Influence

Under Pennsylvania law, charges of driving under the influence can also be brought against a motorist whose use of a controlled substance, such as marijuana, or alcohol affects the person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. A decision announced earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court might offer a new defense strategy in DUI cases involving blood tests.
BAC levels and penalties

Blood alcohol concentration levels are measured through a chemical test of your breath, blood or urine. Pennsylvania uses a three-tier system to determine the severity of the penalties associated with a conviction:

  • Tier I: BAC levels between 0.08 percent and 0.099 percent
  • Tier II: BAC levels between 0.10 percent but less than 0.16 percent
  • Tier III: BAC levels at or above 0.16 percent

The penalties for a first conviction of a Tier I violation can include a $300 fine and probation supervision for up to six months. A first conviction of a Tier III violation can result in fines up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail. A motorist who refuses to take a breath or blood test is subject to the penalties in Tier III.
Limits placed gathering DUI evidence

According to the Supreme Court in Birchfield v. North Dakota, breath tests based upon a motorist’s consent do not require a search warrant, but blood tests can only be administered with a warrant. A blood test refusal might not subject a motorist to Tier III penalties, and it could also create issues of admissibility of the evidence in cases in which a blood test is administered without a warrant.
Defense strategy in DUI cases

If you have been charged with DUI involving a blood test, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Birchfield ruling could affect the ability of prosecutors to use the results of a blood test or to impose enhanced penalties in the event of a conviction.