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Pennsylvania Court Discusses Police Investigations in DUI Cases

Not all Pennsylvania DUI charges arise out of traffic stops. Instead, in many instances, police officers will approach a person sitting in a parked vehicle for purposes other than investigating a crime and will ultimately determine the individual drove while intoxicated. The police must have reasonable suspicion that a person engaged in criminal activity in order to detain and question a person, though, and if they do not, it may constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Recently, a Pennsylvania court issued an opinion that discussed what constitutes reasonable suspicion in a DUI case in which the defendant appealed his conviction. If you are accused of committing a DUI crime, it is prudent to meet with a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your rights.

The Defendant’s Arrest

Allegedly, a police officer was dispatched to a residential neighborhood due to reports of a suspicious car. When he arrived, he found the defendant asleep behind the wheel of his parked car. The car, which was running, was parked legally. The officer parked his patrol car directly behind the defendant’s vehicle and approached the defendant’s window. The defendant awoke, and the officer asked him if he was okay. When the defendant responded, the officer noted an odor of alcohol and that the defendant had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes.

Reportedly, the defendant admitted he was drinking the night before and stated he did not know how he arrives at his current location. A second officer arrived and questioned the defendant. The police ultimately asked the defendant to submit to field sobriety testing. He complied and performed poorly on the tests. He was then arrested and charged with DUI. He moved to suppress the evidence against him on the grounds the police lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him. His motion was denied, and he was convicted, after which he filed an appeal.

Reasonable Suspicion of Criminal Activity

Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, people are protected from unreasonable search and seizure. To protect the rights of its citizens, Pennsylvania requires police officers to demonstrate increasing levels of suspicion that a crime is or has been committed to justify their progressively intrusive interactions with people.

The courts have identified three types of interactions between citizens and police officers: mere encounters, which do not require any level of suspicion; an investigative detention, which must be supported by reasonable suspicion; and custodial detention, which requires probable cause. In determining the nature of an interaction, the court will look at whether a reasonable individual in the same situation would have felt that he or she was being restrained. In the subject case, the court found that the subject interaction was a mere encounter prior to the police forming a suspicion that the defendant was intoxicated. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Meet with a Trusted Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

People have the right to live without fear of unreasonable searches, and if their rights are violated, and they are subsequently charged with DUI crimes, they may be able to argue that the evidence against them should be dismissed. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney regarding your potential defenses. Zachary B. Cooper is a trusted DUI defense lawyer who is dedicated to helping people seek just results, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Cooper via his form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a conference.