THE PENNSYLVANIA SUPERIOR COURT ISSUED A PUBLISHED OPINION, IN A CASE PROSECUTED AND ARGUED BY ATTORNEY CIUCA, HOLDING THAT EVIDENCE OF A DRIVER’S REFUSAL TO SUBMIT TO CHEMICAL TESTING IS ADMISSIBLE AT TRIAL TO SHOW CONSCIOUSNESS OF GUILT IN A DUI PROSECUTION
The defendant was convicted of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol – Refusal, prior to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota. During trial, the prosecution admitted evidence showing that the defendant refused to submit to a blood draw. Based upon the Birchfield decision, issued after defendant’s trial but prior to his sentencing, the defendant argued that he was entitled to a new trial claiming Birchfield now provided a constitutional right to refuse testing. The trial court agreed and vacated defendant’s conviction, ordering that evidence of defendant’s refusal would be inadmissible in his new trial. Attorney Ciuca, as the prosecuting attorney, appealed the trial court’s decision by authoring the Commonwealth’s brief and presenting oral argument to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. The Superior Court agreed with the Commonwealth’s argument that refusal evidence is admissible, and reversed the trial court’s decision. Although Birchfield has significantly impacted DUI enforcement, including the removal of increased criminal penalties for refusal, this ruling clarifies that Birchfield did not create a constitutional right to refuse chemical testing.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE OPINION – COMMONWEALTH v. BELL, 2017 PA Super 236