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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. WILLIAM DOYLE (02/04/87)

decided: February 4, 1987.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF TRAFFIC SAFETY, APPELLANT
v.
WILLIAM DOYLE, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William Doyle, No. 902 August Term, 1983.

COUNSEL

Michael R. Deckman, Deputy Chief Counsel, with him, Spencer A. Manthorpe, Chief Counsel, and Jay C. Waldman, General Counsel, for appellant.

George P. Bannon, for appellee.

Judges Craig and Doyle, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 491]

The Department of Transportation, Bureau of Traffic Safety (Department) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, which reversed the decision of the Department suspending the motor vehicle operating privileges of William D. Doyle*fn1 (Appellee) for one year pursuant to Section 1547(b) of

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 492]

    the Vehicle Code (Code), 75 Pa. C.S. ยง 1547(b), because he refused to submit to a breathalyzer test. We reverse and remand.

On June 19, 1983 Appellee was involved in an automobile accident in Tinicum Township (Township). He was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, taken to police headquarters and asked to take a breathalyzer test by a Township police officer. Appellee refused to take a breathalyzer test and his driver's license was therefore suspended.

Appellee appealed this suspension to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, alleging that the arresting officer did not have reasonable grounds to request a breathalyzer test and that he was not properly warned of the consequences of his refusal. The court of common pleas overruled the action of the Department on the ground that the arresting officer did not have "probable cause" for the warrantless arrest of Appellee for driving under the influence of alcohol. The court wrote:

The only evidence of intoxication submitted to this court was the testimony of the arresting officer who testified that the [Appellee] had been involved in an accident and that there was a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. There was no testimony of slurred speech, difficulty in walking or any other indication of intoxication.

Since the court reversed the Department's determination on the ground that there was no probable cause for the warrantless arrest, it did not reach the issue of whether Appellee was properly informed that his license would be suspended upon his refusal to submit to the breathalyzer test.

On appeal here, the Department contends that the court of common pleas erred in using the standard of probable cause for a ...


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