TOWANDA — After six years and six court decisions ranging from county to state supreme court, a case involving a drunk driver in Bradford County has been resolved.
Bradford County Assistant District Attorney Albert Ondrey and State Trooper David Sweeney recently defeated the last possible appeal by Richard Redman.
The final decision came after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to take a look at the Bradford County DUI case. The high court considered the case, then let the conviction stand.
Judge Maureen Beirne has ordered Redman to report to the Bradford County Correctional Facility to serve his three-day to six-month sentence. Redman also faces fines and a 12-month license suspension.
Ondrey appeared before the Supreme Court at the April proceeding and won the court’s agreement that the court didn’t need to decide the appeal.
Redman’s attorney, Brian Manchester of Centre County, had petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the appeal. He claimed that the Superior Court had improperly used the “implied consent” law to uphold the blood draw from Redman. Implied Consent holds that the driver consented to blood draws when he accepted a driver’s license.
Implied Consent statutes have been limited by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Ondrey opposed Redman’s appeal because the blood draw had been under the “exigent circumstances” exception to the requirement for search warrants. Where the circumstances make a warrant impossible, the court will allow evidence to be seized without a warrant.
The Exigent Circumstances exception has been supported by the U.S. Supreme Court, most recently in a case called Mitchell v. Wisconsin.
The Redman case began on February 27, 2013 when Redman was involved in a one-vehicle accident in Towanda. Trooper Sweeney was dispatched to the scene. Redman had been taken to the Robert Packer Hospital for treatment.
Sweeney remained on scene to investigate the accident.
When Sweeney arrived at the Robert Packer Hospital, Redman had been intubated and could not be asked to consent to a blood alcohol test. Trooper Sweeney obtained blood sample for testing.
Redman through his counsel filed a pre-trial Motion to Suppress the blood results. A hearing was held before Senior Judge David Grine. Ondrey argued that blood draw was not time to obtain a search warrant due to the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood. The accident occurred a substantial distance from the hospital. The police needed time to determine probable cause. Judge Grine agreed and denied the Suppression Motion.
Following trial, Judge Beirne found Redman guilty of DUI, and imposed the sentence.
Redman appealed and the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the conviction. It held that under “implied consent” the concept that a driver consents to a blood draw by obtaining a driver’s license, and didn’t address the “exigent circumstances” aspect of the case.
Redman’s attorney requested permission to present an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court deferred hearing the appeal until it decided a similar case, Commonwealth v. Myers. Myers involved an unconscious driver, and the Myers decision expressed disfavor with implied consent. After deciding Myers case, the Supreme Court remanded Redman’s case to the Superior Court.
The Superior Court affirmed Redman’s conviction for the second time holding that the Redman case did not have to be decided on the “implied consent” part of the Vehicle Code, since “exigent circumstances” made a blood draw lawful without a warrant.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court then permitted the appeal but only to consider the issue of implied consent. It dismissed the appeal because the basis of the Superior Court decision was exigent circumstances.
While the appeal was pending the United States Supreme Court in a case Mitchell v. Wisconsin, held that where a person is unconscious, exigent circumstances will be found.