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Vora v. Commonwealth

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

October 30, 2013

Ketan B. Vora, Appellant
v.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing

Submitted: October 11, 2013

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge

OPINION

DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge

Ketan B. Vora (Licensee) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County (trial court) denying his appeal from a one-year suspension of his operating privilege for refusing to submit to chemical testing after his arrest for violating Section 3802 of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. §3802 (relating to driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or controlled substance).[1]For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

On June 1, 2012, Licensee was operating his vehicle on Greenhill Road near the intersection of Boot Road in West Chester, Chester County, when he was involved in a single vehicle accident. The police officers who responded to the accident scene noted that Licensee had slurred speech and admitted to drinking alcoholic beverages that evening. After administering field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer test, the officers determined that Licensee was impaired. Licensee was placed under arrest and taken to Chester County Hospital (hospital) for the collection of a blood sample which was to be submitted for chemical testing and determination of his blood alcohol content (BAC). However, Licensee refused to provide a blood sample at that time and was transported to the police station for processing. During processing, Licensee asked to be taken back to the hospital to provide a blood sample, but the officers denied his request.

On June 21, 2012, Licensee received notice from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing (PennDOT) that his operating privilege was suspended for a period of one year, effective July 30, 2012, pursuant to Section 1547(b)(1)(i) of the Vehicle Code for refusal to submit to testing. Licensee appealed to the trial court.

At the hearing, Cheryl Taylor (Officer Taylor), a patrol officer in the West Goshen Township Police Department, testified that after arresting Licensee for DUI, she drove him to the hospital for blood testing, and upon arrival at the hospital, said that she was going to ask him to submit to blood testing but he stated that he did not want to give blood. Officer Taylor explained that she took Licensee into the hospital anyway and when Licensee was in the triage room where the blood sample was to be taken, he again stated that he was not going to give blood. She testified that at that point, she read Licensee the entire DL-26 Form, [2] but Licensee again refused to give blood. Officer Taylor explained:

I kept trying to explain to him certain important sections, that this had nothing to [do] with the DUI. He would, in fact, lose his license for at least a year, up to eighteen months for a refusal. I repeated that probably ten times to him just to try to get that through, people lose their license on top of everything else.
He then wanted to read the form. I allowed him to do that. After about five minutes of the form being in front of him, I asked him if he was comfortable, read it, understood, was he going to give blood. He [asked] was there a time limit on reading the form. So I allowed him another five minutes. Then after that time I said look, you're either going to have to give blood or not. We spent a total of twenty minutes tying up the triage room. And he said that he was not going to give blood. He also refused to sign the form.

(December 6, 2012 Hearing Transcript at 5-6).

John Liss (Officer Liss), another patrol officer in the West Goshen Township Police Department, testified that he met Officer Taylor at the hospital on the night of the accident. Officer Liss testified that he witnessed Officer Taylor's interaction with Licensee in the triage unit, and confirmed Officer Taylor's testimony regarding those events.

Sergeant Joseph Burt (Sergeant Burt), another officer in the West Goshen Township Police Department, testified that he processed Licensee after the officers brought Licensee to the police station from the hospital. He stated that during processing, he told Licensee that he made a mistake by refusing to submit to blood testing, at which point Licensee "requested a Mulligan which is a do over." (December 6, 2012 Hearing Transcript at 30). Sergeant Burt testified that he then informed Licensee that he would discuss it with Officer Taylor because she was the arresting officer. He explained:

So I went into the squad room. I explained it to Officer Taylor. We both looked at the clock. It was shortly after 3:00. Incident occurred at 1:14 when the accident came in, so we were right there at the two-hour rule.[3] I personally didn't want to take him back up there, be delayed by a lab tech, have blood drawn after two hours, after 3:14. So basically Officer Taylor and I determined no, we were not going to give him an opportunity at that point. He ...

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