Pennsylvania DUI Conviction Overturned Under Two-Hour Rule
Posted in DUI on November 21, 2020
Everyone knows that a normal DUI charge requires a prosecutor to present evidence at a trial that a person was driving and the person’s alcohol level was over the legal limit. In Pennsylvania, a driving under the influence charge for alcohol also normally requires that the blood or breath was drawn within two hours of driving. Many DUI lawyers call it the two-hour rule. There are some exceptions to the two-hour rule, but a prosecutor would need to present evidence to show that an exception applied. It must also be noted that the two-hour rule only applies to alcohol DUIs and not drug-related DUIs.
In most DUI trials, the arresting officer testifies as to when the officer conducted the traffic stop, when the driver was arrested, and when blood was drawn or a breath sample was obtained. With such testimony, the prosecutor generally presents sufficient evidence to prove that the breath or blood sample was obtain within two hours of when the person was driving, operating, or in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle.
Pennsylvania DUI Two-Hour Rule Issue
In a recent Franklin County case, captioned Commonwealth v. Hajdarevic, a man was charged with a DUI offense that required proof that his blood alcohol level was at more than .10%. The man’s blood test results showed an alcohol concentration of .109%. At trial, the defense was arguing that a margin of error in the blood testing could mean that the man’s blood alcohol was actually less than .10%, so a lower DUI charge. The prosecutor was probably focused on the margin of error issue and primarily focused on the testimony of the lab technician that testified about the blood evidence. The prosecutor called the arresting officer as a witness, but the prosecutor forgot to question the officer about when the driver had his blood drawn. At the end of the trial, the judge accepted the defense argument on the margin of error, and the judge convicted the man of a DUI charge for having a blood alcohol level of between .08% and .10%.
On appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the criminal defense lawyer argued that the DUI conviction must be overturned because the prosecution did not present sufficient evidence that the blood was drawn within two hours of the man’s driving. The Superior Court reviewed the transcript of testimony from the trial and agreed. The Superior Court noted that the prosecution had failed to present evidence that the blood was drawn within two hours of driving, so the Superior Court reversed the conviction. Based upon the Double Jeopardy clauses in both the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions, the man cannot be tried two times for the same offense, which means that the prosecution does not get a “do over.” The man’s conviction was reversed and the case will be dismissed.
This case is an example that the prosecution must prove each and every element of a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The role of a criminal defense lawyer is to pay attention to these types of details and make sure that the prosecutor presents evidence of every legal requirement to justify a criminal charge. If the prosecutor fails to present sufficient evidence, then the client must be found not guilty.