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Court Discusses What Constitutes Sufficient Probable Cause to Conduct a Traffic Stop in Pennsylvania DUI Cases

It is not uncommon for Pennsylvania drivers to be charged with DUI following a traffic stop for other alleged traffic violations. The police must have a reasonable basis for conducting a traffic stop, however, and if they lack sufficient cause to stop a driver any evidence recovered during the stop may be inadmissible. Recently, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed what constitutes adequate grounds for effectuating a stop in a case in which a defendant was charged with DUI following a stop for driving unsafely. If you are faced with a DUI charge arising out of a stop for a different alleged traffic violation you should meet with a seasoned Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to discuss your case and what defenses you may be able to set forth to avoid a conviction.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was driving on a Pennsylvania road at 11:00 pm on a Friday evening. A police officer traveling in the opposite direction observed the defendant cross the center line, after which the officer made a U-turn and began following the defendant. The officer reportedly then watched the defendant go over the center line two more times. Additionally, the officer watched the defendant cross over the fog line approximately six or seven times. The officer turned on his patrol lights and stopped the defendant for violating provisions of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code.

It is alleged that when the officer approached the defendant’s car the defendant was fumbling around, had bloodshot, glassy eyes, and smelled of alcohol. The officer asked the defendant to submit to breath and field sobriety testing, but the defendant refused. Additionally, the defendant reportedly became combative when the officer asked him if he had been drinking that night. The officer ultimately arrested the defendant, who was charged with DUI, general impairment. Prior to his trial, the defendant moved to suppress any evidence obtained during the traffic stop, which the trial court denied. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed.

Requisite Probable Cause to Stop a Vehicle

In Pennsylvania, if a police officer has reasonable suspicion that a driver is violating the Motor Vehicle Code (MVC), the officer can stop the person and request his or her license, registration, and other necessary information. Traffic stops based on the suspicion of a violation of the MVC must have an investigatory purpose. In other words, an officer who stops a vehicle due to a violation of the MVC must have probable grounds to make the stop, and mere reasonable suspicion alone is not sufficient to justify a stop when it will not have an investigatory purpose related to the alleged violation.

In the subject case, the court found that the arresting officer stopped the defendant for violating the provisions of the MVC that require drivers to stay within a single lane. The court noted that there was substantial evidence that the officer observed the defendant veer over both the center line and the fog line. Thus, the court found that the trial court properly ruled that the arresting officer had probable cause to stop the defendant, and the evidence obtained during the stop was admissible.

Speak with a Skilled Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you live in Pennsylvania and are charged with DUI it is vital to speak with an attorney regarding your case to help determine what you can do to protect your rights.  Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a proficient Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney who will set forth a vigorous defense on your behalf. Mr. Cooper can be reached through the online form or at (215) 542-0800 to schedule a free and confidential conference to discuss your charges.