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Commonwealth v. Carper

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 13, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellant
v.
BRIAN WAYNE CARPER, Appellee

         Appeal from the Order Entered October 7, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-11-CR-0002189-2015

          BEFORE: OLSON, J., DUBOW, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]

          OPINION

          OLSON, J.

         The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appeals from the October 7, 2016 order granting Appellee Brian Wayne Carper's suppression motion and granting, in part, his habeas corpus motion. In this case, we conclude that Appellee preserved his state constitutional claim in his post-suppression hearing brief. We hold that blood draw evidence collected prior to June 23, 2016 is not admissible under Davis v. United States, 564 U.S. 229 (2011) and Illinois v. Krull, 480 U.S. 340 (1987), [1] as no good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule exists under Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Finally, we hold that blood draw evidence is necessary to make a prima facie showing that a defendant violated 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802(d)(1). Accordingly, we affirm.

         The factual background and procedural history of this case are as follows. On October 13, 2014, a Pennsylvania State Police trooper pulled Appellee over for an expired inspection sticker. During the ensuing interaction, the trooper found evidence that Appellee was driving under the influence of a controlled substance. Appellee was transported to a local hospital and informed, by a reading of the DL-26 form, that, if he did not consent to a blood draw, he would face increased criminal penalties. Appellee then agreed to the blood draw, which showed the presence of a controlled substance.

         On February 12, 2016, the Commonwealth charged Appellee via criminal information with two counts of driving under the influence ("DUI")-controlled substance, [2] manufacturing a designer drug, [3] possession of drug paraphernalia, [4] and three summary offenses. On September 1, 2016, Appellee moved to suppress the blood draw evidence. He argued that the evidence was collected in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Appellee also moved for a writ of habeas corpus with respect to the DUI-controlled substance charges because, he argued, without the blood draw evidence the Commonwealth failed to make a prima facie case.

         Thereafter, the trial court held a suppression hearing which encompassed this case and six other cases which raised similar legal issues. Pursuant to the trial court's order, Appellee filed a post-suppression hearing brief. In that brief, Appellee, for the first time, argued that Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution barred admission of the blood draw evidence. On October 7, 2016, the trial court granted the suppression motion. The trial court also granted the habeas corpus motion with respect to count two of the criminal information, which charged Appellee with DUI-controlled substance in violation of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802(d)(1), and denied the habeas corpus motion in all other respects. The Commonwealth filed this timely interlocutory appeal as of right.[5] See Pa.R.A.P. 311(d).

         The Commonwealth presents three issues for our review:

1. Whether the [trial court] erred by ruling that [Davis and Krull] were inapplicable under Article [I, ] Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution when [Appellee] had only made a claim under the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution and had implicitly waived all claims under Article [I, ] Section 8[?]
2. Whether the [trial] court erred by suppressing evidence that was seized based upon the officer's good faith reliance on appellate precedent[?]
3. Whether the trial court erred by granting the motion for writ of habeas corpus and holding that the Commonwealth required a blood test to meet its burden when there is no such language in the [statute?]

Commonwealth's Brief at 6.[6]

         The Commonwealth's first two claims challenge the trial court's order suppressing the results of the blood draw. "Once a motion to suppress evidence has been filed, it is the Commonwealth's burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the challenged evidence was not obtained in violation of the defendant's rights." Commonwealth v. Evans, 153 A.3d 323, 327 (Pa. Super. 2016) (citation omitted). Our standard of review in addressing a challenge to a trial court's order granting a suppression motion is whether the factual findings are supported by the record and whether the legal conclusions drawn from those facts are correct. See Commonwealth v. Champney, 161 A.3d 265, 271 (Pa. Super. 2017) (en banc) (citation omitted). "[O]ur scope of review is limited to the factual findings and legal conclusions of the [trial] court." In re L.J., 79 A.3d 1073, 1080 (Pa. 2013) (citation omitted). "When the Commonwealth appeals from a suppression order, we . . . consider only the evidence from the defendant's witnesses together with the evidence of the prosecution that, when read in the context of the entire record, remains uncontradicted." Commonwealth v. Young, 162 A.3d 524, 527 (Pa. Super. 2017) (citation omitted). "Where the [trial] court's factual findings are supported by the record, we are bound by these findings and may reverse only if the [trial] court's legal conclusions are erroneous." Commonwealth v. Palmer, 145 A.3d 170, 173 (Pa. Super. 2016) (citation omitted).

         In order to understand the issues presented in this case, it is necessary to review the change in the law which prompted Appellee to file his suppression motion. When Appellee was arrested and gave consent to the blood draw, the warnings regarding increased criminal penalties for refusing a blood draw (included in form DL-26) were legally correct. While Appellee's case was pending, however, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S.Ct. 2160 (2016). In Birchfield, the Supreme Court ...


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