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Commonwealth v. Wilson

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

September 18, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellant
v.
TARIQUE WILSON, Appellee

Argued May 20, 2014

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, No(s): MC-51-CR-0008085-2012. Before PATRICK, J.

Hugh J. Burns, Jr., Assistant District Attorney and Priya M. Travassos, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Victor E. Rauch, Public Defender, Philadelphia, for appellee.

BEFORE: PANELLA, J., LAZARUS, J., and JENKINS, J.

OPINION

PANELLA, J.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appeals the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County order, which denied the Commonwealth's petition for a writ of certiorari, from the order entered in Municipal Court granting Appellee, Tarique Wilson's Motion to Suppress Evidence. The Commonwealth contends that the lower courts erred in determining that 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802(d), pertaining to driving under the influence of a controlled substance, requires blood testing within two hours of driving. After review, we reverse the order denying the Commonwealth's petition for writ of certiorari and remand for further proceedings.

On February 25, 2012, at 11:55 p.m., Philadelphia Police Officer Gregory Dixon

Page 1152

stopped Wilson's vehicle at the 1900 block of 54th Street in the city of Philadelphia. See N.T., Municipal Court Hearing, 1/31/13 at 12. Officer Dixon arrested Wilson under suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DUI) at 11:59 p.m. and transported him to the Philadelphia Detention Unit (PDU). See id. at 13-14. At the PDU, Officer Henry Sienkiewicz was assigned to process the blood testing of DUIs and was working alone the evening Wilson was brought in for blood testing. See id. at 18-19. Eventually, another officer was freed to assist with the volume of DUIs to process. See id. at 18. That evening, the officers processed between 25 to 30 DUIs, with an average Breathalyzer processing lasting approximately 28 minutes and blood testing requiring approximately 13 minutes. See id. at 20-22. Wilson was presented to Officer Sienkiewicz for blood processing at 2:25 a.m. and his blood sample was tested at 2:36 a.m. See id. at 21.

The police eventually charged Wilson with driving under the influence of a controlled substance.[1] At a municipal court hearing on January 31, 2013, Wilson moved to suppress physical evidence, stating that over two hours had passed between the time he had driven to the time his blood was drawn, in violation of the two-hour rule of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802. Wilson additionally argued that the Commonwealth failed to establish a " good cause" exception to the two-hour rule under subsection 3802(g). Following the hearing, the municipal court granted Wilson's suppression motion on the grounds that section 3802 was ambiguous as to whether the two-hour rule applied to offenders accused of driving under the influence of controlled substances, and that the ambiguity therefore should be construed in favor of the defendant. See N.T., Municipal Court Hearing, 1/31/13 at 30-31.

On February 20, 2013, the Commonwealth filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the court of common pleas. Following a brief hearing on April 3, 2013, the trial court denied the Commonwealth's petition. This timely appeal followed.[2]

The Commonwealth raises the following issue for our review:

Where the police arrested defendant for driving under the influence of marijuana at 11:59 p.m., but could not obtain his blood sample for testing until 2:36 a.m. because of the large number of suspects waiting to be tested, did the Court of Common Pleas err in affirming the Municipal Court order suppressing the Commonwealth's evidence because the blood sample was obtained more than two hours after arrest?

Appellant's Brief at 4.

Our standard of review is ...


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