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Pennsylvania Court Discusses Authority of Police to Act Outside Their Jurisdiction in DUI Cases

In most instances in which a person is charged with DUI, it is due to an accident or erratic driving observed by a police officer patrolling the town where the person was arrested. In some cases, however, an officer who receives information regarding an erratic driver may extend his or her investigation outside his or her jurisdiction in order to determine if a driver is in violation of the law. Recently, a Pennsylvania appellate court addressed the issue of whether evidence obtained during a stop effectuated due to observations made by a police officer outside his jurisdiction is admissible in a case in which the defendant was charged with DUI and other traffic offenses.  If you were charged with DUI following a traffic stop, you should meet with a diligent Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to discuss the evidence that the state is permitted to introduce against you at trial.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

A police officer patrolling a borough received a dispatch from the county 911 that there was a pickup truck being driven erratically throughout the area. The officer responded to the call and observed a truck matching the 911 description parked in a pull-off area of a nearby street, which was outside the officer’s jurisdiction. When the officer approached the truck, it began to drive away. The officer then followed the truck to a nearby hospital. While he was following the truck, the officer noticed conduct that constituted sufficient cause to initiate a traffic stop within his jurisdiction.

The officer detained the defendant in the hospital parking lot, pending the arrival of a Pennsylvania State Trooper, who also received the call. When the trooper arrived, he noted that the defendant had a strong odor of alcohol and glassy and bloodshot eyes. Additionally, the defendant admitted to drinking all day. The defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license, reckless driving, DUI, and other traffic violations. The defendant was found guilty on several counts, after which he appealed.

Authority of Police to Act Outside Their Jurisdiction

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court committed an error in failing to suppress the evidence obtained by the officer who initially investigated the incident, due to the fact that the officer exceeded the scope of his jurisdiction. As a result, the court looked at the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act, which grants police officers the authority to act as officers in areas outside their jurisdiction in certain circumstances. The purpose of the Act is to promote the safety of the public while maintaining police accountability. Thus, it is to be construed liberally.

The Act permits police officers to take action outside their jurisdiction in certain circumstances, such as when aid has been requested by a local or state police officer. In the subject case, the court found that the investigating officer did not violate the Act in driving into another jurisdiction to investigate the defendant. Specifically, the court ruled that the dispatch from the police department qualified as a request for aid and assistance as contemplated by the Act. As a result, the court affirmed the trial court’s verdict.

Speak with a Skillful DUI Defense Attorney

If you were recently charged with DUI, it is prudent to speak with a seasoned attorney about the defenses that you may be able to assert. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a zealous Pennsylvania DUI attorney who will assertively advocate on your behalf to help you fight to protect your rights.  Mr. Cooper can be contacted at (215) 542-0800 to set up a complimentary and confidential meeting.