A Pennsylvania appeals court has ruled that prosecutors cannot introduce the results of a breath test in the case against a 49-year-old truck driver accused of striking and killing a firefighter while under the influence of alcohol. The appeals judges upheld a county court ruling to exclude the toxicology evidence because police failed to explain the 49-year-old Newville man’s rights to him before conducting the breath test.
Police charged the man with a raft of felony counts including DUI and homicide by vehicle in connection with an April 2018 fatal accident. The man allegedly lost control of his tanker truck on Interstate 81 and struck a firefighter as he changed a tire near Carlisle. The appeals court ruling deals a blow to prosecutors as the excluded toxicology evidence allegedly reveals that the man had a blood alcohol concentration of .225 at the time of the accident. That is almost three times the legal driving limit in Pennsylvania.
Superior Court ruling
Both the lower court judge who excluded the evidence and the appeals judges who upheld his decision based their rulings on a 2018 case involving a woman who claimed that blood evidence should be excluded because she was not told about her rights concerning consent. A form known as a DL-26 explains these rights, and police officers must read this form before conducting breath tests or drawing blood.
This case reveals that the courts take law enforcement procedures seriously and may exclude toxicology evidence in impaired driving cases when police make mistakes even if the officers involved did not act maliciously. This is why experienced DUI criminal defense attorneys may advise suspects to remain silent until a lawyer has studied the case file no matter how dire their situations seem.