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Pennsylvania Court Discusses What Constitutes Reasonable Suspicion of DUI

Simply because a person is charged with a DUI does not mean that they will be found guilty. Rather, to obtain a conviction, the Commonwealth must not only prove the elements of the DUI crime a person is charged with, but it must also prove that the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion a crime was being committed prior to detaining the defendant. What constitutes sufficient evidence of reasonable suspicion was recently discussed by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in a case in which the defendant was convicted of four counts of DUI.   If you were recently charged with a Pennsylvania DUI offense, it is vital to retain a diligent Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assist you in formulating a compelling defense.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the arresting officer observed the defendant sitting in an idle vehicle with the motor running, but no lights on in the early hours of the morning. The vehicle was on a suburban street that recently experienced several break-ins. When the defendant observed the arresting officer’s car, the defendant moved his vehicle to the end of a nearby cul-de-sac. The officer ran a check on the defendant’s license plate, which was registered in another county. The officer then approached the defendant and questioned him regarding his reasons for being in that neighborhood at that time.

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with four counts of DUI. Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity when he stopped the defendant, and therefore the stop violated the defendant’s constitutional rights. The court denied the defendant’s motion, and he was convicted on all counts, after which he appealed. On appeal, he argued that the arresting officer lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him, and therefore the arrest was improper. The court rejected the defendant’s argument and affirmed his conviction.

Reasonable Suspicion to Conduct a Traffic Stop

Under Pennsylvania law, the police may stop a driver if they have reasonable suspicion of DUI. In assessing whether an officer’s suspicion is reasonable, the court will look at the totality of the circumstances. In evaluating an officer’s judgment, the court must give sufficient weight to the inferences the officer is able to draw from the facts in light of his or her experienced. In other words, even a number of innocent facts, when taken as a whole, can warrant further investigation.

In the subject case, the defendant argued that no reasonable suspicion existed because the officer did not observe the defendant violate the motor vehicle code and that it was not unusual for the defendant to sit in a parked car with the motor running in light of the cold weather. The court disagreed, finding that a reasonably cautious officer would have been justified in the belief that it was appropriate to stop the defendant, given the totality of the circumstances. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak with a Trusted DUI Defense Attorney

If you live in Pennsylvania and are faced with DUI charges, it is prudent to speak with a trusted Pennsylvania DUI attorney regarding what evidence the Commonwealth must produce to obtain a conviction. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a trusted Pennsylvania attorney with the skills and experience needed to help you seek a successful outcome. You can reach Mr. Cooper at (215) 542-0800 or through the online form to schedule a confidential and free meeting to discuss your case.