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Quigley v. Commonwealth

February 4, 2009

JOAN BEYER QUIGLEY, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF DRIVER LICENSING



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Butler

Argued: October 15, 2008

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE DORIS A. SMITH-RIBNER, Judge, HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge.

OPINION

Joan Beyer Quigley (Quigley) filed a notice of appeal from the November 16, 2007 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County dismissing her appeal of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing's (PennDOT) one-year suspension of her operating privileges pursuant to Section 1547 of the Vehicle Code.*fn1

On February 16, 2007, Quigley was involved in a one-vehicle accident. Officer David Arnold was the first officer to arrive on the scene of the accident.

Based on Officer Arnold's observations at the scene and the administration of field sobriety tests, Quigley was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Upon arrival at the Bethel Park police station, Quigley was asked to submit to a breathalyzer test. Officer Arnold read the chemical testing warnings required by Section 1547(b) of the Vehicle Code to Quigley as they appeared on the August 2006 DL-26 Implied Consent Form (DL-26 Form).*fn2 Officer Arnold alleged that Quigley did not want to take the test, instead insisting that she wanted to talk to her husband.

On March 26, 2007, PennDOT notified Quigley in writing that her operating privileges would be suspended for one year for failing to submit to chemical testing. Quigley appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, raising the issue of whether she had been properly warned that her operating privileges would be suspended. On November 16, 2007, the trial court dismissed her appeal, finding that she had been properly warned, and that she had not proved that she was confused by the language on the DL-26 Form.*fn3 Quigley appealed to this Court.*fn4

Quigley argues on appeal that the trial court erred as a matter of law by concluding that warnings contained in the DL-26 Form were not ambiguous and confusing to Quigley. Based upon the following analysis, we disagree.

The operation of a motor vehicle in Pennsylvania "is a privilege subject to such conditions as the legislature may see fit to impose . . . ." Dep't of Transp., Bureau of Driver Licensing v. Hoover, 606 A.2d 1264, 1266 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1992) (Palladino, J., dissenting). Among the conditions imposed upon that privilege is the implied consent to submit to chemical testing where there is reasonable cause to believe a licensee is driving under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance. Hoover. Section 1547 of the Vehicle Code is a clear statement of the legislative purpose to keep drunk drivers off the roads. Id. Section 1547(b) of the Vehicle Code states:

(1) If any person placed under arrest for a violation of section 3802 [(relating to DUI)] is requested to submit to chemical testing and refuses to do so, the testing shall not be conducted but upon notice by the police officer, the department shall suspend the operating privileges of the person as follows:

(i) Except as set forth in subparagraph (ii), for a period of 12 months.

(ii) For a period of 18 months if any of the following apply:

(A) The person's operating privileges have previously been suspended under this subsection.

(B) The person has, prior to the refusal under this paragraph, been sentenced for:

(I) an offense under section 3802;

(II) an offense under former section 3731[(related to serious traffic offenses)];

(III) an offense equivalent to an offense under subclause ...


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