Articles Posted in Reasonable Suspicion

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If you are charged with a Pennsylvania DUI, the Commonwealth is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged crime. In DUI cases where the police did not perform chemical testing, the Commonwealth will typically rely on circumstantial evidence to support its case. In a recent case decided by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, the court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence to support a conviction of driving under the influence-general impairment. If you are charged with DUI general impairment or any other DUI offense it is crucial to retain a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assist you in formulating a strong defense.

Factual Background of the Case

It is reported that a police officer conducted a traffic stop on the defendant, after observing the defendant drift between the fog line and solid yellow line of a road before turning into an exit of a fast food restaurant that was marked do not enter. Upon approaching the defendant’s vehicle, the officer observed an odor of alcohol coming from the defendant and noted that the defendant’s eyes were glassy and bloodshot. The officer then performed field sobriety testing on the defendant, during which the defendant allegedly exhibited signs of intoxication. Based on the foregoing, the defendant was arrested and charged with DUI general impairment. The case proceeded to a bench trial, after which the defendant was convicted. He subsequently appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the court’s guilty verdict and that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence.

Sufficiency of Evidence in a DUI Case

Under Pennsylvania law, when there is sufficient evidence to allow the fact finder to find that each element of a crime has been established beyond a reasonable doubt, a defendant’s claim that there was insufficient evidence must fail. The evidence set forth at trial does not have the preclude the possibility of innocence to be sufficient and the trier of fact is free to believe some, all, or none of the evidence presented. In reviewing whether the evidence is sufficient on appeal, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the successful party and cannot re-evaluate the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the fact finder.

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While it is common knowledge you can be charged with DUI if a police officer directly observes you driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, many people are unaware you can be charged with DUI even if the arresting officer did not actually witness you operating a vehicle. In Yencha v. Commonwealth, et al., the court clarified the issue of what constitutes sufficient evidence for charging an individual of driving under the influence of alcohol within the framework of Pennsylvania DUI law.

In Yencha, an officer responded to a call regarding a hit and run accident. When he arrived at the scene, the victim and a witness to the accident both described the vehicle involved in the hit and run and the man driving the vehicle. The witness also provided the license plate number of the vehicle. The officer ran the license plate number and subsequently found the vehicle parked outside of the suspect’s residence. The officer noted the vehicle had front-end damage. The officer spoke with the suspect, who reported his vehicle had been damaged in a previous accident and denied any knowledge of the hit and run accident. The officer noted the suspect had glassy eyes, slurred speech and an odor of alcohol on his breath and requested the suspect undergo a field sobriety test. The suspect refused to undergo any testing. The officer arrested the suspect for suspicion of DUI and being involved in a hit and run. The suspect was transported to the police station, where he again refused to submit to a breath test.

Following a trial, the Department of Transportation (DOT) imposed a one year suspension on the suspect’s license for failure to submit to the breath test. The suspect appealed, arguing the officer did not have reasonable grounds to charge the suspect with DUI and therefore the suspension for failure to submit to a breath test was improper. The trial court sustained the suspect’s appeal and reversed the suspension. The DOT appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, arguing the trial court erred when it held the officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe the suspect was driving under the influence of alcohol, and the suspension should be reinstated.

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A driver appealed his March 2016 DUI conviction from the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas. Specifically, he contested the court’s denial of his motion to suppress the results of his blood alcohol content (“BAC”) test, and he challenged the constitutionality of section 1543(b)(2) of Pennsylvania’s vehicle code. The Pennsylvania Superior Court disagreed and affirmed the driver’s convictions.

A state trooper was responding to the reported theft of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) when he was notified that the complainant had stopped the alleged thief on a nearby road. When the trooper arrived, the driver was standing next to an ATV in the roadway. The complainant was in a truck parked behind the driver’s ATV, and two other state troopers were also present.

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A driver appealed from the March 3, 2016 judgment of sentence the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, finding him guilty of DUI. On appeal, he argued that the trial court erred in finding the arresting officer had a reasonable suspicion to believe he was involved in criminal activity. The Pennsylvania Superior Court disagreed and affirmed the judgment.

On June 24, 2015, an officer was on patrol with his car window down. It was around 1 a.m. when he saw a beige Buick parked in front of 920 High Street. As he drove past, he saw a man talking to the driver and heard a woman yelling and screaming. The woman was seated in the front passenger seat and seemed to be yelling at someone inside the car.

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