Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Stop

Published on:

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer : A sign warns motorists of a Regional Impaired Driving Enforecement team (RIDE) sobriety check point on Rt. 1 in Brunswick on Friday, August 16 2013.
As we move into the month of May and the days begin to get longer, more and more people will begin to enjoy the weather outside and spend much more time on the road. Law Enforcement agencies all over Pennsylvania will also begin to set up sobriety checkpoints to do what they can take intoxicated drivers off the road. For those that don’t know, a DUI checkpoint or roadblock is a specifically designated location on a roadway where police are looking for potential impaired drivers.

If you or someone you know is arrested for a DUI as part of a checkpoint it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. This is because there are procedures that must be followed with these checkpoints and if they are not that can have a impact on your case.  Many times I have a client come into my office for an initial consultation and they automatically assume they are guilty because they were caught in a checkpoint. A qualified,experienced, aggressive DUI attorney will look into this checkpoint to make sure that all procedures were followed.  Even if they were followed, that doesn’t mean that a person is automatically guilty of a DUI.  There are many ways to defend and attack a DUI which we will get into on other posts.

One of the most important procedures that must be followed is that police or law enforcement agency must make public the location of where the checkpoint will be set up. Unfortunately most people don’t go onto google prior to driving to see where these checkpoints will be. By the time that a person realizes there is a checkpoint ahead it is usually too late.  Some of the other requirements an experienced DUI attorney should look for whenever they have a client who has been arrested as a result of a DUI  checkpoint:

Published on:

The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently upheld appellant Renaire Lewis’s conviction for DUI despite his argument that the stop violated his Fourth Amendment rights. speeding-car-1175932

In the early morning of July 2014, Lower Pottsgrove Police Sgt. Greenwood was investigating a vehicle (“Vehicle 1”) stopped on Buchert Road, which was blocking the lane. During his investigation, Sgt. Greenwood heard a second vehicle (“Vehicle 2”) driven by Lewis accelerating toward him. Sgt. Greenwood attempted to alert Lewis of the danger by waving his flashlight, but appellant continued to drive toward the obstruction. Lewis then slammed his brakes, causing his tires to screech. As Lewis decelerated, he swerved into the eastbound lane of Buchert Road to avoid colliding with Sgt. Greenwood or Vehicle 1.

Continue reading

Published on:

By Versageek (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia CommonsAbout 50 police officers from several Delaware County townships joined Pennsylvania State Police troopers to operate a DUI checkpoint one weekend in June. Officers stopped an estimated 2,500 motorists to check for sobriety. The stops were not based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Anyone driving through that intersection was subject to being stopped and questioned. This raises a seemingly obvious question of how this is legal under the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled over 20 years ago that “sobriety checkpoints” like the one in Upper Darby do not violate the Fourth Amendment. It left it to the states to decide whether to restrict police authority in this regard. A few states have chosen to do so, but not Pennsylvania.

Police established the checkpoint at a busy intersection in Upper Darby Township. They began stopping vehicles at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, June 6, 2014 and continued until 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. They allowed at least 500 vehicles to pass without inspection when lines of cars backed up almost two blocks. Police say they administered field sobriety tests to about 25 people, resulting in DUI charges against 13 people. They issued citations for other traffic violations as well, such as expired inspection or registration, unrestrained children, and license suspensions.

Continue reading

Published on:

By Niagara (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia CommonsAn appeal in the Pennsylvania Superior Court claimed that a field sobriety test conducted on a snow-covered road, along with breath testing conducted without the 20-minute observation period required by Pennsylvania law, were insufficient to support a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI). The defendant/appellant in Commonwealth v. Favinger challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against him and the legality of the traffic stop that led to his arrest. The Superior Court ultimately affirmed the verdict and sentence, but its opinion offers a useful overview of the different ways that prosecutors may establish that a defendant was impaired by alcohol in a DUI case.

A state trooper pulled the defendant over at about 3:20 a.m. on January 29, 2011. The trooper testified that the defendant continued to travel about half a mile after the trooper activated his emergency lights, finally stopping in a driveway. He claimed that he detected the odor of alcohol, and that the defendant’s eyes were “bloodshot and glassy.” The defendant agreed to field sobriety testing, which the trooper claimed he failed. Breath testing conducted after the defendant’s arrest showed blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.128 percent. The defendant was later convicted of DUI–general impairment and DUI–high rate of alcohol.

Continue reading

Published on:

Doug Kerr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)], via FlickrA Pennsylvania man appealed his conviction of driving under the influence (DUI)—incapable of safely driving and DUI—highest rate of alcohol, arguing that the arresting officers lacked reasonable suspicion of a crime when they stopped his car, and that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled, in Commonwealth v. Landis, that the defendant was entitled to a new trial on the “weight of the evidence” argument. It held that the trial court abused its discretion by incorrectly applying the law.

Pennsylvania State Troopers pulled the defendant over on State Route 35 at 2:40 a.m. on April 4, 2010, after allegedly witnessing his vehicle weave within its lane and cross the center double-yellow line several times. The defendant admitted to having several drinks. The troopers arrested him and took him to a nearby hospital, where a medical technician drew blood and conducted a single chemical test using an Avid Axsym machine. The test showed blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.164 percent.

At trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress for lack of reasonable suspicion, which the trial court denied. He challenged the reliability of the Avid Axsym machine. The medical technician testified that the machine had a ten percent margin of error, which was not considered in its BAC report. The defendant argued that the Avid Axsym machine was less reliable than a gas chromatography test, and that his BAC result based on a single test was unreliable. A jury found him guilty, and the trial court sentenced him to a prison sentence of ninety days to five years less one day. Continue reading

Published on:

By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe state can charge a person with DUI even without direct evidence of intoxication, as demonstrated by the case of a Texas man who was arrested and charged with DUI despite negative breath and blood tests. Prosecutors eventually dismissed all of the charges against him, but police continue to defend the decision to arrest and charge him, arguing that he could have been impaired by a substance that did not show up on the blood test. Pennsylvania law states that blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher constitutes “impairment,” but it also prohibits driving while under the influence of any amount of alcohol or a controlled substance that makes safe driving impossible. Proving impairment is generally easiest for the state with BAC evidence, but it is not necessarily required.

The arrest occurred on January 13, 2013 in Austin, Texas, when police pulled the man over for allegedly running a stop sign. He was taken into custody and given a breath test, which showed BAC of 0.00 percent. He admitted to having one drink earlier, but the test results suggest that no significant amount of alcohol was present in his bloodstream. He agreed to submit to a blood test, which police say screens for seven different drugs, including alcohol. The results were not available for several months, but also showed no measurable amount of any of the seven drugs.

The man was nevertheless charged with DUI, known in Texas as DWI. Police claimed that he failed a field sobriety test at the time of his arrest, with official reports stating that the arresting officer observed him swaying and needing to use an arm to support himself while standing on one leg. This behavior could have multiple other possible explanations besides intoxication, such as a condition affecting one’s equilibrium or simple fatigue, but prosecutors apparently felt this was enough to support a DUI case. More than a year after the arrest, they finally dismissed all charges. Continue reading

Published on:

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsA driver appealed the suspension of his driver’s license to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, arguing that the trial court lacked sufficient evidence and committed several legal errors. The Commonwealth Court disagreed and affirmed the suspension. Blalock v. Commonwealth, No. 1592 C.D. 2012, opinion (Pa. Commw. Ct., May 28, 2013). In its order, the court stated that it could only consider whether the trial court had abused its discretion, not whether it got the facts wrong. Since license suspension is a civil proceeding rather than a criminal one, the burden of proof is much lower for the state. Both the trial court and the Commonwealth Court relied on the arresting officers’ testimony that the driver showed “signs of intoxication” during the arrest.

The driver’s arrest occurred in the early morning of February 23, 2012. According to witnesses, he was driving down the center of the road when he collided with another vehicle. The other vehicle was allegedly unable to avoid the collision. He continued for another 100 yards, then left his vehicle and ran into the woods. The driver reportedly told police that he swerved to avoid hitting a deer, then ran into the woods to look for the deer. The driver also stated that he hit his head during the collision, and that this injury might have affected his behavior.

Police stated that the driver exhibited signs of intoxication, such as “slow and deliberate” movements and speech, confusion, and a “faint to moderate” smell of alcohol. He allegedly did not perform well on field sobriety tests, and the officers said that he “exhibited no outward signs of injury.” The officers claim that they read the Form DL-26 warnings to him, which advise of the consequences of refusing chemical testing, and that he signed the form and refused to submit to tests. He later pleaded guilty to careless driving and failure to stay in his lane of traffic. The Department of Transportation (DOT) suspended his license for one year, which the law allows if a DUI suspect refuses chemical testing. He appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. Continue reading

Published on:

bartgroe on stock.xchngDriving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, commonly known as “driving under the influence” or just “DUI,” is a serious offense under Pennsylvania law. Penalties can range from a loss of driving privileges to a lengthy prison sentence, depending on the circumstances. The law in Pennsylvania clearly defines the obligations of police and prosecutors in any case of alleged DUI, and it is critically important for anyone accused of DUI to know their rights. Among the many elements of the offense of DUI that the state must prove, it must provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was impaired by alcohol or illegal drugs.

What is “Impairment”?

Pennsylvania law defines “impairment” very broadly as a state in which a driver is “incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.” Police and prosecutors can gather evidence of impairment by testing a person’s blood or breath, or by observing a person’s behavior and testifying about it in court.

Blood alcohol content (BAC), the percentage of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream at a particular time, is considered by the legal system to be a reliable means of determining impairment. Pennsylvania law presumes that a person is impaired if their BAC is 0.08 percent or higher within two hours of driving. For anyone under the age of 21, or anyone driving a school bus, that amount is 0.02 percent. Commercial vehicle drivers are presumed to be impaired with a BAC of 0.04 percent. Continue reading