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Pennsylvania Court Discusses Grounds for Suppressing Evidence in DUI Cases

Under Pennsylvania law, law enforcement agents must have reasonable suspicion of a crime in order to detain and interrogate someone. The reasonable suspicion standard does not mean that a person cannot be arrested for a DUI offense outside of a traffic stop, however. Instead, as demonstrated in a recent Pennsylvania ruling, evidence obtained while a police officer is performing community caretaking duties can serve as a basis for a DUI arrest and conviction. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is smart to speak to a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney about your options for seeking a just outcome.

Factual and Procedural Setting

It is alleged that in November 2019, a Pennsylvania state trooper observed the defendant’s vehicle on the side of the road. The trooper approached the vehicle and spoke to the defendant, at which point noticed the defendant’s glassy and bloodshot eyes, along with a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle and the defendant himself. The defendant admitted to having consumed alcohol when questioned by the Trooper and was asked to perform field sobriety tests.

It is reported that the defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with driving under the influence. He filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained from what he argued was an illegal seizure. Specifically, he claimed that the activation of police lights and the approach of the troopers constituted an investigative detention without reasonable suspicion. The court, however, determined that the Trooper’s actions fell within the community caretaking doctrine and denied the defendant’s motion. The defendant was convicted following a bench hearing. He appealed.

Grounds for Granting a Motion to Suppress in a DUI Case

The defendant argued that the Trooper lacked the reasonable suspicion needed to detain him, and that the interaction with the Trooper did not fall under the public servant exception; as such, he argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to distress. Upon review of the evidence, the court found that the Trooper had specific, objective, and articulable facts indicating that the defendant might need assistance. Further, the Trooper’s actions were separate from any criminal investigation, and the level of intrusion was proportional to the perceived need for assistance.

As such, the court concluded that the public servant exception applied. Additionally, the court determined that the trooper’s interaction with the defendant was minimal in terms of intrusion. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Talk to a Dedicated Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

A conviction for a DUI offense can harm a person’s reputation and rights, but simply because a person is charged with a DUI crime does not mean that there is adequate evidence to convict them. If you are faced with DUI charges, it is wise to talk to an attorney about what defenses you may be able to assert. Zachary B. Cooper is a dedicated Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer with the knowledge and experience needed to help you seek a favorable outcome, and if you hire him, he will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Cooper through the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a conference.