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Pennsylvania Court Discusses Reasonable Cause in DUI Cases

In many DUI cases, the Commonwealth will rely on direct evidence, like the results of a blood or breath test, to demonstrate that the defendant committed the charged offense. If such evidence is obtained during a traffic stop made without reasonable suspicion that the defendant committed a crime, however, it may not be admissible. Recently, a Pennsylvania court examined what is considered reasonable cause to effectuate a DUI traffic stop in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction after the lower court denied his motion to suppress evidence obtained prior to his arrest. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is smart to meet with a Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer to talk about your options for seeking a good outcome.

History of the Case

It is alleged that an officer stopped the defendant’s vehicle based on an anonymous tip that the driver had committed an assault. At the scene, the officer observed the defendant’s car swerving erratically in a parking lot before stopping behind the patrol vehicle. During the traffic stop, the defendant appeared disoriented—staring straight ahead with glazed eyes and not responding to questions. When he exited the car, the defendant stumbled and gave delayed, slurred responses. He also advised the officer that he was a diabetic.

It is reported that the officer testified the defendant’s behaviors were consistent with impairment based on his extensive DUI enforcement experience. The defendant was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of a controlled substance. He moved to suppress the evidence obtained during his traffic stop on the grounds that the office lacked reasonable grounds for stopping and questioning him. The municipal court denied his motion, and he was convicted. He then appealed.

Grounds for Conducting a Traffic Stop

On appeal, the court affirmed the municipal court ruling after reviewing the record and finding the municipal court’s factual findings were supported by the evidence and its legal conclusions were correct. In doing so, the court emphasized that its role was not to make determinations with regard to credibility or factual findings but instead to determine whether the lower court’s actions were supported by the record.

Here, the court found the totality of the circumstances provided reasonable suspicion for the stop based on the anonymous tip and the officer’s observations. Namely, the defendant’s behavior during the encounter, along with the officer’s DUI enforcement experience, established probable cause for the arrest. As the record supported the factual findings and legal conclusions, the court held that the municipal court’s denial of the defendant’s motion for suppression was proper. As such, it affirmed his conviction.

Confer with a Trusted Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

Law enforcement agents must have just cause for stopping a motorist, and if they do not, any evidence obtained during the stop may be inadmissible in a subsequent DUI trial. If you are accused of committing a DUI offense, it is smart to confer with an attorney about your possible defenses. Zachary B. Cooper is a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer with the skills and knowledge needed to help you seek a favorable result, and if you hire him, he will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Cooper via the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a conference.