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Commonwealth v. Smith

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

December 28, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
BRITTANY NORA SMITH Appellant

         Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence May 19, 2017 In the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-43-CR-0001493-2016

          BEFORE: BOWES, J., RANSOM, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]

          OPINION

          STEVENS, P.J.E.

         Appellant Brittany Nora Smith appeals from the judgment of sentence entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County after the trial court convicted Appellant of Driving Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance (DUI) and related vehicle code violations. Appellant argues that the trial court erred in refusing to suppress the evidence obtained from the seizure of her vehicle and the warrantless testing of her blood. We affirm.

         The trial court aptly summarized the factual background of this case as follows:

[O]n August 6, 2016, at approximately 1:28 a.m., Trooper Sherry L. Hogue was traveling east on Route 62 in Mercer County. She was in a marked cruiser in full uniform. Trooper Hogue observed a white truck pull onto Route 62 traveling in a westwardly direction. When the truck pulled out onto Route 62 (which is a lined, two-way road), it traveled in the center of the roadway for a sufficient period of time forcing Trooper Hogue to apply her brakes as to avoid a collision. The truck returned to the westbound lane and Trooper Hogue turned her vehicle around and followed the truck. The truck turned right onto Springfield Church Road and then left into what appeared to be a business driveway. The trooper pulled behind the truck, activated her lights, and exited the vehicle.
The Trooper approached the driver, whom the Trooper identified as [Appellant], and asked [Appellant] to exit her vehicle. [Appellant] screamed at the Trooper and the Trooper detected an odor of alcohol coming from [Appellant] and observed [Appellant's] blood shot eyes. Trooper Hogue also observed a drink with a straw in the center console of [Appellant's] vehicle. Upon request, [Appellant] handed the drink to the Trooper who smelled the drink and detected the smell of alcoholic beverages. [Appellant] was uncooperative with the Trooper's instructions relative to field sobriety tests.
[Appellant] was then placed under arrest and transported to the Grove City Medical Center. During the trip to the Grove City Medical Center, [Appellant] told the Trooper that the Trooper should arrest criminals and not "drunks." The Trooper asked [Appellant] what if [Appellant] hit a car with a family in it and [Appellant] replied "we all have to die sometime."
Upon arrival at the Grove City Medical Center, Trooper Hogue read the new DL-26 form which did not contain any information regarding enhanced criminal penalties. [Appellant] signed the form because she did not want a license suspension. Blood was drawn and it was subsequently determined that [Appellant's] blood alcohol content was .274.

Trial Court Opinion (T.C.O.), 7/17/17, at 3-4.

         Appellant was charged with DUI and several motor vehicle code violations.[1] On January 3, 2017, Appellant filed a suppression motion, alleging she was subjected to an unlawful stop of her vehicle and illegal warrantless blood testing. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied Appellant's suppression motion. On May 19, 2017, the trial court held a stipulated bench trial and convicted Appellant of the aforementioned offenses. The trial court imposed a sentence of ninety days to one year of imprisonment to be followed by four years' probation for the DUI conviction under Section 3802(c). No further penalty was imposed on the remaining charges. Appellant filed a timely appeal and complied with the trial court's direction to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b).

         Appellant raises the following issues for our review:

1. The suppression court erred in refusing to declare the seizure of [Appellant] and her vehicle unlawful, as there was no probable cause for the traffic stop, as set more fully in [Appellant's] Omnibus Pre-Trial Motion, which is attached hereto and made a part hereof.
2. The suppression court erred in refusing to suppress evidence of the warrantless blood search conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police, as set forth in [Appellant's] Omnibus Pre-Trial Motion, ...

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