Articles Posted in Motion to Suppress

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Under recent changes in Pennsylvania law, people can consume marijuana for medical purposes in certain circumstances. They can nonetheless be charged with marijuana-related DUI crimes if they drive while under the influence of marijuana, though. Thus, as discussed in a recent Pennsylvania opinion issued in a DUI case, the smell of marijuana can be a factor in determining whether probable cause exists for questioning a DUI suspect. If you are charged with a DUI offense, you should talk to a Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer about what arguments you may be able to set forth in your defense.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that in August 2021, a police officer observed the defendant driving at 77 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone on a state highway. The officer, after stopping the defendant, detected a strong odor of burnt and raw marijuana, leading to further investigation. The defendant, who possessed a medical marijuana card, admitted to smoking marijuana prior to the stop. Subsequent field sobriety tests revealed impairment, and the defendant was arrested, leading to a blood draw at a hospital.

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with two counts of driving under the influence (DUI) of a controlled substance and one count of exceeding maximum speed limits. Prior to trial, he moved to suppress the evidence obtained following the traffic stop, challenging the lawfulness of the police officer’s actions leading to the arrest. The trial court denied his motion, and he was subsequently convicted and sentenced. He then appealed the trial court’s denial of his suppression motion. Continue reading

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If the police suspect that a person is driving under the influence of alcohol, they will typically detain them and conduct an investigation. The police do not have the authority to stop people without reasonable suspicion that they are committing a crime, though, and if they do, any evidence obtained during the stop may be inadmissible. In a recent Pennsylvania ruling issued in a DUI case, the court explained the differences between a mere encounter and an investigatory stop, ultimately rejecting the defendant’s argument that the stop in question was unlawful. If you are accused of a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to consult a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assess your potential defenses.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with multiple DUI crimes. The charges arose out of an encounter in which a police officer observed that she appeared lethargic and had a distant gaze while driving, followed her, and approached her after she parked and exited her car. They engaged in a conversation, and the officer immediately detected the strong smell of alcohol on the defendant’s breath.

It is reported that the defendant performed poorly on field sobriety tests and underwent a blood draw, which revealed a BAC that was three times over the legal limit. Following her charges, the defendant filed a motion asserting that the traffic stop was unlawful and sought to suppress any evidence obtained from it. The trial court denied her motion, and a trial was held on stipulated facts. She was found guilty, and she appealed. Continue reading

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It is widely known that the Constitution grants criminal defendants rights against self-incrimination. In other words, a defendant cannot be compelled to make incriminating statements. In many instances, even if a defendant makes statements that would tend to indicate guilt, the statements may be precluded at trial, if the defendant was not properly advised of his or her rights prior to making the statements. The standard for determining when incriminating statements should be precluded were recently discussed in a DUI case in which the defendant was convicted, in part, based on statements he made prior to receiving a Miranda warning. If you are faced with DUI charges, and you made statements to the police during their investigation, it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding what defenses you may be able to assert to avoid a conviction.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that the defendant was questioned by a police officer after another driver reported that the defendant was allowing his minor daughter to drive and that the defendant was driving erratically. When the police officer approached the defendant’s vehicle, the defendant had a strong odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and was sluggish and uncooperative. The defendant told the officer he was driving and denied his daughter drove the vehicle. The officer then told the defendant that he knew the defendant had a suspended license but had been driving the vehicle regardless, after which the defendant changed his story and denied operating the vehicle. The defendant was arrested, and a blood test revealed his BAC to be .228%.

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including DUI. He was convicted of all charges. The defendant then appealed, arguing, among other things, that the trial court erred in refusing to grant his motion to suppress the statements he made to the officer prior to receiving a Miranda warning.

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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.
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Under the rights afforded by both the Pennsylvania and Federal constitution, the police cannot subject people to unreasonable searches. Pennsylvania recognizes different types of encounters between the police and citizens, including an investigatory search. As recently discussed in a case in which the Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned a DUI conviction if the police conduct an investigatory search of a person without a reasonable justification of the search, any evidence obtained during the search should be suppressed. If you were charged with a Pennsylvania DUI following an investigatory stop, you should consult a skilled DUI defense attorney to discuss what evidence the State may be able to introduce against you.

The Defendant’s Search and Arrest

Reportedly, a police officer was doing a check of local businesses that were closed for the day, looking for suspicious activity. He observed an SUV enter the parking lot of one of the businesses and pull into a parking space. He pulled his patrol vehicle behind the SUV and activated the red and blue cruise lights. When he approached the vehicle, he observed an odor of alcohol on the defendant and detected that she seemed impaired. He called for backup, and when he looked up the defendant’s driver’s license information, learned her license had been suspended due to a DUI. The defendant failed her field sobriety test and underwent chemical testing.

The defendant was subsequently charged with DUI – general impairment, DUI – highest rate of alcohol, and driving while her license was suspended. Prior to the trial, she filed a motion to suppress any evidence that was obtained during the search on the grounds that the search was illegal. Her motion was denied and she was convicted on all counts, after which she appealed.

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The Supreme Court’s holding in Birchfield v. North Dakota, continues to affect how Pennsylvania DUI cases are prosecuted. In Birchfield, the Supreme Court held that police officers could not subject DUI suspects to warrantless blood tests or impose increased criminal penalties for refusing a blood test. Before the Birchfield ruling, Pennsylvania DUI suspects were advised that they would face enhanced criminal penalties if they refused blood tests. Those warnings, which were known as the DL-26 form, were modified post-Birchfield to remove language warning of increased criminal penalties. The new form, DL-26B, however, warns of the possibility of increased civil penalties for failing to submit to a blood test, which has led to confusion among DUI suspects as to what penalties may be imposed for failing to submit to the test.

Recently, in Commonwealth v. Miller, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that police officers do not have an affirmative duty to advise a DUI suspect they will not face enhanced criminal charges if they refuse a blood test. As such, if a DUI suspect voluntarily consents to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test, the results of the test are admissible, regardless of the suspect’s belief that he will face more severe penalties if he refuses to submit to the test.

In Miller, the suspect was arrested under the suspicion of DUI and then read the revised DL-26B form, which no longer includes warnings of increased criminal penalties for failing to submit to a blood test. The suspect, who had previously been arrested for DUI and read the prior DL-26 form, believed he would received criminal penalties for failing to submit to the blood test and therefore consented to the test. At his trial, the suspect filed a motion to suppress evidence of his blood alcohol concentration test results, arguing his consent was invalid because, based on his prior experience, he believed he would face criminal penalties if he did not submit to the test. The trial court granted the suspect’s motion and the Commonwealth appealed. On appeal, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that the suspect’s subjective belief did not provide grounds for the suppression of the blood alcohol concentration test results.