On July 17, 2017 Robert Garlick was operating his motor vehicle in Erie County Pennsylvania. A state Trooper investigating his 1 car accident, suspected Mr. Garlick of being under the influence of alcohol. Garlick was arrested for suspicion of DUI. At the barracks the Trooper read verbatim the warnings contained in the July 2016 revised Penn DOT DL-26B form. This form provides the following warnings with regard to a chemical test of blood:
1. You are under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance in violation of Section 3802 of the Vehicle Code.
2. I am requesting that you submit to a chemical test of blood.
3. If you refuse to submit to the blood test, your operating privilege will be suspended for at least 12 months. If you previously refused a chemical test or were previously convicted of driving under the influence, you will be suspended for up to 18 months.
4. You have no right to speak with an attorney or anyone else before deciding whether to submit to testing. If you request to speak with an attorney or anyone else after being provided these warnings or you remain silent when asked to submit to a blood test, you will have refused the test.
I and many other attorneys have argued that this language in this DL-26B form fails to comply with the statutory version of §1547(b)(2) in effect at the time; that these drivers are not advised that refusing the chemical test would result in enhanced criminal penalties (i.e. the penalties provided in Section 3804(c)) as § 1547(b) requires. While there is no statutory or other requirement that the DL-26 form contain appropriate warnings, or that the form be read verbatim, it is nonetheless the duty of the police officer to inform the petitioner of the statutorily required warnings. In other words, if the police officer recites the appropriate warnings from memory without the use of any form at all that is perfectly acceptable under the law. In this case, however, the Trooper confirmed that the only warnings he provided were those contained on the DL-26B Form which he read verbatim. Those warnings are not consistent with the law.
The law in effect in July of 2016 was 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547. Section 1547 of the Vehicle Code in effect on May 24, 2017, provides in pertinent part:
(a) General rule.—Any person who drives, operates or is in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle in this Commonwealth shall be deemed to have given consent to one or more chemical tests of breath or blood for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of blood or the presence of a controlled substance if a police Officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person to have been driving, operating or in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle:
(1) in violation of section 1543(b)(1.1) (relating to driving while operating privilege is suspended or revoked), 3802 (relating to driving under influence of alcohol or controlled substance)….* * *
(b) Suspension for refusal.—
(1) If any person placed under arrest for a violation of section 3802 is requested to submit to chemical testing and refuses to do so, the testing shall not be conducted but upon notice by the police officer, the [D]epartment shall suspend the operating privilege of the person as follows:(i) Except as set forth in subparagraph (ii), for a period of 12 months.* * *(2) It shall be the duty of the police Officer to inform the person that:
(i) the person’s operating privilege will be suspended upon refusal to submit to chemical testing; and(ii) if the person refuses to submit to chemical testing, upon conviction or plea for violating section 3802(a)(1), the person will be subject to the penalties provided in section 3804(c) (relating to penalties). 75 Pa. C.S. § 1547(a),(b).
On July 20, 2017, the governor approved Act 30 of 2017 which provides for an amendment to Section 1547(b)(2) removing the language requiring a police officer to provide the warnings relating to enhanced criminal penalties for refusal. This amendment was not effective on the date of Garlick’s incident. The fact that the legislature amended it is indicative of its acknowledgement that such an amendment was necessary to effectuate the change required of the warnings pursuant to Birchfield.
Drivers license attorneys and I argue PennDOT’s amended DL–26B form, created post-Birchfield, removes references to §3804 criminal penalties. This form is not consistent with the statutory framework of the motor vehicle code and not consistent with any legislative authority. Various courts have been confronted with post-Birchfield amended O’Connell warnings that do not contain the mandatory/ statutory language of § 1547(b)(2). These cases do not address the illegality of the DL-26B form and the incorrect recitation of law to the motorists deemed refusing.
Mr. Garlick objected to amended DL 26B reading. The Erie County Court of Common Pleas judge denied his legal argument. On appeal to the Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial judge and found PennDOT correctly altered its DL-26B form after the Birchfield case. As you recall, Birchfield v North Dakota, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 2160, 195 L.Ed.2d 560 (2016), and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania jurisprudence interpreting it hold that 75 Pa.C.S.A. §1547(b) and Pennsylvania’s enhanced criminal penalties for refusing a chemical blood test are unconstitutional.
The complex criminal versus civil application of Birchfield, is born out in the case of Boseman v. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, 157 A.3d 10 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2017), and Gray v. Commonwealth , Dep’t of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, No. 1759 C.D. 2016, 2017 WL 2536439, at *7–8 (Pa. Commw. Ct. June 9, 2017), reargument denied (Aug. 7, 2017). These cases maintain arresting officer’s statutory obligation to inform a motorist of the General Assembly’s defined § 1547(b)’s ramifications of a refusal – not PennDOT’s version.
Garlick v. PennDOT is the first case to decide the exact argument I have raised in several cases. Garlick rejects, though without explanation, the argument that the PennDOT revised DL-26 form is illegal. The court opinion adopts much of my and other defense counsel’s reasoning that; “It is true, as Licensee argues, that the language contained in Section 1547(b)(2)(ii) was mandatory at the time Trooper requested that Licensee submit to a blood test. However, while Section 1547(b)(2)(ii) then “command[ed]” that a warning about enhanced criminal penalties be given the purpose behind that provision is to make a licensee aware “of the consequences of a refusal to take the test so that he can make a knowing and conscious choice.” Dep’t of Transp., Bureau of Traffic Safety v. O’Connell, 555 A.2d 873, 877 (Pa. 1989); see Commonwealth v. Myers, 164 A.3d 1162, 1171 n.12 (Pa. 2017) (plurality) (“purpose of [Section 1547(b)(2)] ‘is to entitle arrestees to the information necessary to assess the dire consequences they face if they fail to consent to chemical testing, to ensure their choice in that regard is knowing and conscious, as we described in O’Connell’”
However, the court proceeds to state “Given our review of the current state of the law, Licensee’s argument that his license must be reinstated because he was not warned that he would be subject to no longer constitutionally permissible enhanced criminal penalties for refusing blood testing is unpersuasive. Trooper specifically and accurately warned Licensee about the consequences of refusing a blood test that remain following Birchfield, that is, the suspension of his license. Therefore, common pleas did not err when it denied Licensee’s appeal.”
This conclusion ignores the realty of the legislative dictate that the law as written and authorized by the General Assembly is the only permitted and regally authorized language Penn DOT can read to licensees. More appeal will follow because of this specious and ill-informed decision.
Still on the topic of refusals to submit to a breath or blood test, a new bill introduced into the General assembly in 2018, Senate Bill 553, makes changes to the state’s DUI laws and will take effect Jan. 11. Among them is a new fee for refusing to submit to a blood-alcohol test, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that police can’t obtain blood samples without a warrant or consent. Under the revised law, drivers who refuse a blood-alcohol test but are convicted and lose their license will have to pay a “restoration fee” for their license of up to $2,000 — $500 for the first time a test is refused, $1,000 for the second time and $2,000 for the third and each time after. The law requires officers to inform suspects of the costs when they’re pulled over.