Impermissible Enhanced Penalties for Refusal to Consent to Chemical Testing

Com. v. Monarch, 165 A.3d 945 (Pa. Super. 2017), allocatur granted Jan. 11, 2018, appeal docket 1 WAP 2018

Samuel Monarch was arrested for driving under the influence based on information from Monarch’s mother and observations of the arresting officer, but refused to consent to blood or breath testing. A jury convicted Monarch of one count of driving under the influence/general impairment (“DUI”) and one count of endangering the welfare of his daughter, who was in the car at the time of Monarch’s arrest. The trial court increased the grading of the DUI conviction pursuant to 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3803(b)(4), which imposes enhanced penalties for defendants convicted of DUI if they refuse a breath or blood test.

Monarch argued that the sentence imposed by the trial court was unconstitutional in light of Birchfield v. North Dakota, –––U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 2160, 195 L.Ed.2d 560 (2016), where the U.S. Supreme Court held that enhanced penalties for refusing a blood test were unconstitutional.

However, noting that the court in Birchfield also found that enhanced penalties for refusing a breath test were not unconstitutional, the Superior Court held that the enhanced penalty for refusing blood or breath testing was not unconstitutional as applied to Monarch when Monarch refused both breath and blood testing.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted allocatur to consider:

Was [petitioner] given impermissible enhanced penalties, as expressed in Birchfield v. North Dakota, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 2160, 195 L.Ed.2d 560 (June 23, 2016), for his refusal to consent to chemical testing?

For more information, contact Kevin McKeon or Dennis Whitaker.