The law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania regarding warrantless blood draws where an accused is suspected of DUI is currently in flux. The state of the law regarding DUI and warrantless blood draws was illustrated in a three-judge panel in Commonwealth v. Ennels. On March 12, 2016, in Reading, Pennsylvania, a man named John Amonte Ennels was in a motor vehicle accident. Police were contacted because he was trying to leave the scene. When officers conducted a traffic stop of Ennels, there was an overwhelming smell of marijuana and a partially smoked blunt in the vehicle. DUI checkpoint Ennels was charged with DUI and was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital for a blood test. Ennels was read the “DL-26” form and gave his blood ‘voluntarily’. However, the DUI form that the officers read to Ennels said that he would face a minimum of 72 hours in jail and a $1,000.00 fine and a maximum of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine if he refused to consent to the blood draw. The court therefore ruled that Ennels’s blood sample consent was involuntary.
The court in the Ennel’s case when considering warrant less blood draws in connection with a DUI referenced the case of Birchfield v. North Dakota, which applies to warrant less drawing of blood. Birchfield requires that a blood test must be authorized by a warrant or case specific exigency (if officers are pressed for time) or by individual consent, and not from fear of the criminal consequences upon refusal. Defending DUI A panel of three judges held that the U.S. Supreme Courts ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota applied in Commonwealth v. Ennels. The prosecutors argued that Birchfield did not apply in drug-related DUIs, however, Superior Court Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr. said the standard for administering blood tests to suspected drunk drivers is the same that should be applied to those suspected to being impaired by drugs. Make sure to contact an experienced Chester County DUI lawyer if you have questions regarding this case.