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Court Discusses Probable Cause in Pennsylvania DUI Cases

Typically, DUI charges arise out of traffic stops. The police must have reasonable grounds for pulling a motorist over, however, and if they do not, the Commonwealth may be precluded from introducing the evidence obtained via the stop at trial, regardless of how persuasive it is. Recently, a Pennsylvania court discussed probable cause in a ruling in which it ultimately dismissed an order suppressing the results of a chemical test in a DUI case. If you are accused of driving while intoxicated, it is smart to talk to a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assess your potential defenses.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that a police officer observed the defendant driving on a highway for two and a half miles in the middle of the night. During that time, he saw the defendant meander over the fog line several times. He subsequently pulled the defendant over and, when speaking with him, noticed an odor of alcohol on his breath. The defendant was asked to submit to a field sobriety test; he agreed and performed some of the tasks incorrectly. He then agreed to submit to a breath test. Following the test, the officer arrested the defendant. The defendant moved to suppress the results of the breath test at trial, arguing that the officer had reasonable cause to stop the defendant. The trial court granted the motion, and the Commonwealth appealed.

Probable Cause to Arrest a DUI Suspect

On appeal, the court agreed with the Commonwealth and reversed the trial court ruling. The court explained that in order to arrest the defendant for DUI, the officer needed to have probable cause to believe that the defendant was impaired to the extent that he could not drive safely. Probable cause is present when the circumstances and facts that are within the officer’s knowledge at the time of the arrest and that they believe constitute reasonably trustworthy information are adequate to merit a reasonable person to develop the belief that the suspect has committed or is about to commit a crime.

The court clarified that probable cause does not require certainties. Instead, it arises out of the practical and factual considerations that a prudent and reasonable person acts on in everyday life. In the subject case, the court found that the officer did not base his conclusion that the defendant was impaired on any single factor. Instead, he weighed the totality of the circumstances. The court ultimately found that the officer had adequate reasonable suspicion to request a chemical breath test. Thus, it found the test to be admissible.

Meet with an Experienced Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

DUI defendants are protected from unreasonable stops and searches, and if their rights are violated in the course of a DUI investigation, any evidence obtained through the investigation may be inadmissible. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to talk to a lawyer about your rights. Zachary B. Cooper is an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer who can assess the facts of your case and develop a strategy designed to provide you with a strong chance of achieving a favorable outcome. You can reach Mr. Cooper via the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a meeting.