Under Pennsylvania and federal law, a police officer cannot detain a person without a warrant unless the officer has probable cause. This has been interpreted to mean that an officer cannot stop a vehicle unless the officer observes the driver of the vehicle committing a violation of the Vehicle code or another offense. If a vehicle stop is unconstitutional, any evidence found during the stop should be deemed inadmissible. While some violations clearly provide probable cause for making a vehicle stop, in other cases, it is less clear whether probable cause exists. Recently, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania analyzed whether a police officer had probable cause to stop a vehicle for failing to use a turn signal, in a case where the stop resulted in a DUI charge. If you are facing Pennsylvania DUI charges and you believe the police lacked probable cause to stop you it is in your best interest to speak with a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney about your case.
Facts Regarding the Traffic Stop
Allegedly, the defendant was exiting a shopping center parking lot by turning onto a roadway. The defendant failed to use a turn signal prior to turning and was subsequently stopped by a police officer due to the failure to use a turn signal. When the officer was questioning the defendant, the officer reported that he noticed that the defendant was exhibiting signs of intoxication, including uncontrollable laughter, difficulty following instructions, slurred speech, and a strong odor of alcohol. The defendant underwent field sobriety testing, which he failed. He was ultimately charged with DUI-general impairment and DUI-highest rate of alcohol.
It is reported that prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer lacked probable cause to stop his vehicle because a turn signal is not required when turning from a parking lot onto a roadway. The court granted the defendant’s motion, after which the Commonwealth appealed.