The Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Monarch, No. 778 WDA 2016 (June 6, 2017), holding that the enhanced DUI penalties were not unconstitutional as applied where Monarch refused not only the blood test, but also a breath test.

About an hour before noon on a Saturday morning, Donna Peltier, the mother of Samuel Monarch, contacted the Franklin County 911 Emergency Services Center. She informed them that her son was intoxicated and had just driven away from her residence with his eight-year-old daughter. Officers caught up with Monarch inside his residence shortly thereafter and observed that Monarch’s speech was slurred, he reeked of alcohol, and he was unstable while standing. Monarch refused to take sobriety tests and refused breath and blood tests.

After a jury trial, Monarch was convicted of one count of driving under the influence/general impairment (“DUI”) and one count of endangering the welfare of his daughter. 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.

Among the issues raised on appeal, Monarch argued that the sentence imposed by the trial court was unconstitutional pursuant to Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S.Ct. 2160 (2016).

The Superior Court noted that it was undisputed that Monarch was sentenced pursuant to 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3803(b)(4), which imposes an enhanced penalty for an individual who refuses blood or breath testing and is subsequently convicted of DUI. In Birchfield, the United States Supreme Court held that enhanced penalties for refusing a blood test were unconstitutional. In contrast, the Birchfield Court held that enhanced penalties for refusing to consent to a breath test did not violate the Constitution.

With that legal framework in mind, the Superior Court concluded that because Monarch refused not only the blood test, but also a breath test, the enhanced penalties in Section 3803(b)(4) were not unconstitutional as applied in his case.

CASE LINK: http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/J-S24011-17o%20-%2010312574317901362.pdf?cb=1

DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information in this article. Case summaries are primarily excerpted directly from the decisions authored by the Courts. The decisions are cited and linked and the reader is encouraged to read the entire decision. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services. As such, it should NOT be used as a substitute for consultation with a McMahon Winters Soto-Ortiz Law Firm attorney. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should always consult with a McMahon Winters Soto-Ortiz Law Firm attorney.