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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JOHN E. CURRAN (06/17/87)

decided: June 17, 1987.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF DRIVER LICENSING, APPELLANT
v.
JOHN E. CURRAN, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation v. John E. Curran, No. S-1086-1985.

COUNSEL

Harold H. Cramer, Assistant Counsel, with him, Christopher J. Clements, Assistant Counsel, Spencer A. Manthorpe, Chief Counsel, and Henry G. Barr, General Counsel.

S. John Price, Jr., for appellee.

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

Author: Macphail

[ 107 Pa. Commw. Page 2]

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing (Department) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County which sustained the appeal of John E. Curran (Appellee) from a one-year suspension of his operating privileges by the Department. We reverse.

Appellee was arrested for driving under the influence at the scene of an automobile accident in which he was involved. He was informed of the implied consent provisions of Section 1547 of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1547, requiring that he submit to a chemical test for blood alcohol content or lose his operating privileges for one year. The arresting officer informed Appellee that he would have to submit to a blood test because there were no intoxilyzer operators on duty to administer a breath test. Appellee requested a breath test asserting that he was afraid of needles and of giving blood, but he did agree to try the blood test. At the hospital, however, Appellee refused to go through with the blood test after verbally consenting to do so. Appellee was not told he could undergo a urinalysis for blood alcohol, and he later testified before the trial

[ 107 Pa. Commw. Page 3]

    court that he would have submitted to a urine test if it had been offered.*fn1

Appellee's operating privileges were suspended for one year for refusing to submit to the chemical test for blood alcohol, pursuant to Section 1547(b), 75 Pa. C.S. § 1547(b). He appealed to the court of common pleas which sustained the appeal and reversed the Department's order. The Department's appeal of this order is now before our Court.

We note, initially, that our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether the trial court's findings are not supported by competent evidence, erroneous conclusions of law have been made, or the decision exhibits a manifest abuse of discretion. Bruno v. Department of Transportation, 54 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 353, 422 A.2d 217 (1980).

The Department argues that the trial court erred as a matter of law in concluding that Appellee did not refuse to submit to a chemical test because of his "understandable" fear of needles and blood tests*fn2 and that the arresting officer should have presented the option of a urinalysis. We agree with the Department that this conclusion is contrary to the decisions of this Court in Department of Transportation, Bureau of Traffic Safety v. Bartle, 93 Pa. Commonwealth ...


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