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Drunk driving dismissal does not save truck driver's license

Pennsylvania DUI laws require that an individual who refuses to take a blood-alcohol test is subject to a mandatory loss of his or her driver's license for one year. For a commercial truck driver in that predicament, the driver will also lose his or her commercial license forever, according to a recent Commonwealth Court decision. The appellate decision has a couple of interesting legal issues with respect to Pennsylvania's drunk driving laws and pertaining to its administrative laws regarding license suspensions.

One point made by the Court is that when the operator remained silent in response to the request of the police for him to take a blood-alcohol test, that is the equivalent of a refusal to take the test. Therefore, the refusal results in the standard one-year loss of license. However, the defendant had been acquitted of drunk driving in the county court trial. The Commonwealth Court upheld the loss of license despite the acquittal in the criminal case.

At trial, a friend testified that the defendant had had only one beer and did not appear drunk. The arrest arose out of a car accident and a hit-and-run by the truck driver. When police found him, he was in the truck and it was running.

He failed sobriety tests and did not respond to repeated requests to provide a blood draw. The police treated this as a refusal and it was sent to PennDOT as such. The license suspension for failing to provide a blood-alcohol test is a separate civil proceeding that goes through the Department of Transportation.

The jury in the criminal prosecution for drunk driving found him guilty only of careless driving. Without the blood alcohol reading, it can be more difficult for the prosecution to prove DUI beyond a reasonable doubt under Pennsylvania law. The strategy by the truck driver backfired, however, due to the Court's upholding of the driver's license suspension. The suspension requires the loss of the man's commercial license for life. Due to the heavy consequences and the legal twists in the case, the defendant may consider appealing the decision to a higher appellate court.

Source: pennlive.com, "Trucker acquitted of DUI must still lose his commercial driver's license for life, Pa. court says", Matt Miller, May 25, 2017

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