Kraynak's appeal of driver's license suspension denied
SUNBURY - Less than three weeks after being convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, Dr. Raymond J. Kraynak Jr. now faces the loss of his operator's license for one year.
During a two-hour civil hearing Tuesday morning, Northumberland County Judge William H. Wiest dismissed an appeal filed by the doctor and member of Mount Carmel Area School Board involving an automatic 12-month suspension of his driver's license by PennDOT for his refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test after being arrested in connection with a May 26, 2012, sobriety checkpoint on Route 61 in Coal Township.
The 56-year-old Kraynak, who was represented by Attorney Francis Bach of Mount Carmel, has 30 days to file an appeal to Wiest's ruling. If the verdict is not appealed, the suspension will become effective as of the date the judge's order is filed in the county prothonotary's office, which should occur within a couple days.
Just like at his bench trial Aug. 30 before Judge Charles H. Saylor, Kraynak was the lone defense witness.
Attorney Kelly Solomon, who served as PennDOT counsel, presented Coal Township Patrolman Matthew Henrich and Shamokin Cpl. Jarrod Scandle as witnesses.
Bach argued throughout the hearing that the checkpoint was not properly established. He said Henrich was not certified to conduct field sobriety testing and claimed police did not offer enough professionalism at the scene by failing to notify Kraynak of the ramifications involved with his refusal to submit to chemical testing.
The lawyer also said the failure of the prosecution to present Sunbury Patrolman Stephen Bennick, who was the first officer to encounter Kraynak at the checkpoint, played a crucial role in the case.
Solomon, who objected several times to the relevancy of questions posed to the witnesses by Bach, said enough evidence was presented to show Kraynak was under the influence of alcohol and reasonable grounds were established to dismiss the appeal and impose the suspension.
Wiest agreed with Solomon that Kraynak was properly informed of his constitutional rights by Henrich and willfully refused to submit to a blood test.
Kraynak, who lived in Kulpmont at the time of his arrest but now resides at 28 E. Fifth St., Mount Carmel, told the court he was traveling north in the passing lane of Route 61 toward Shamokin at about 11 p.m. when he stopped his vehicle near Pizza Hut upon noticing a lot of emergency lights in the area. The defendant, who has been a doctor for 29 years, said he thought there was an accident and wanted to offer assistance.
Upon exiting his Ford Mustang convertible, the doctor said he encountered Bennick a few car lengths ahead. After identifying himself to the officer and offering assistance, Kraynak said Bennick asked him if he had been drinking. Kraynak, who admitted to having two beers about two hours earlier, said he agreed with Bennick's request to conduct field sobriety tests.
Kraynak said he had no trouble crawling over a concrete barrier in the middle of the highway to reach the testing area on the south side of the road near the former Sam Bressi Motors.
At the testing area, Kraynak claimed Henrich did not properly instruct him on taking balancing and coordination tests that included a heel to toe exam and one-legged stand. Kraynak said the officer told him he was certified to administer the tests.
The defendant admitted to doing the tests to the best of his ability despite suffering from back problems that causes his legs to become numb at times.
But Kraynak denied ever being asked to submit to a preliminary breath test or chemical testing.
"I told him (Henrich) I couldn't do the tests but offered to do cerebral tests like asking if I knew the square root of 16," Kraynak said. "I was never told what form to sign and no form was ever read to me. I do recall saying that I wouldn't sign anything."
He added, "It was clear that he (Henrich) didn't know what he was doing. He didn't have the proper training. I was not under the influence of alcohol."
When asked by Solomon if he thought the officers lied during their testimony, Kraynak replied, "I wouldn't call them liars, but these gentlemen aren't telling the truth."
Henrich, who was the arresting officer in the case, rehashed much of his testimony given at trial.
He said Kraynak failed field sobriety tests and had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. The officer said Kraynak's speech was slurred and his face was flushed.
In his opinion, Henrich said Kraynak was not capable of driving safe that night.
He testified that the defendant refused a preliminary breath test and blood-alcohol testing and claimed he would get his own blood drawn.
Henrich, who completed field sobriety training as a deputy sheriff in 2004, admitted not being recertified in conducting the tests until after the sobriety checkpoint in which Kraynak was arrested.
The patrolman, who said Kraynak understood his testing instructions, testified that he properly read the blood-alcohol consent form to the defendant, which he refused to sign.
Scandle said he witnessed Henrich read the form to Kraynak and the defendant's refusal to sign it. Scandle said he signed the form as a witness.
When asked for comment after the hearing, Solomon said, "I believe the verdict was fair based on the evidence. I think the court heard the evidence and made the right decision."
Bach stated, "Every operator in the commonwealth who receives notice of suspension of their license has a right to appeal PennDOT's decision. PennDOT has the burden of proving the legality/validity of the suspension and must prove every element of the statute (1547 of the vehicle code) to impose the suspension. The court was the trier of facts. It determined the credibility of the witnesses and ruled in favor of the commonwealth and against Dr. Kraynak."
Kraynak, who is a first-time offender, previously said he plans to appeal the conviction on the misdemeanor DUI charge, but Bach reserved comment about filing an appeal on his driver's license being suspended.
The defendant, who is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 4 by Saylor on the DUI offense, is facing a minimum of three days and maximum of six months imprisonment. The same sentencing guidelines would have applied if Kraynak's blood-alcohol level (BAC) was .16 or higher. If the BAC was .10 to .159, he could have received a sentence of two days to six months in county prison and a 12-month license suspension. If the BAC was .08 to .99, he could have been sentenced to six months probation and no driver's license suspension.
If his BAC was .16 or higher and he successfully completed the county's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, Kraynak would have faced a 60-day driver's license suspension. Under ARD with a BAC between .10 and .159, his driver's license would have been suspended for 30 days. With a BAC of .08 to .99 under ARD, Kraynak's driver's license would not have been suspended.
By successfully completing ARD, Kraynak would have avoided jail time and his misdemeanor offense would have been expunged.