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Supreme Court Rules a Warrantless Search in a DUI Case Was Unlawful

DUI arrests often arise out of traffic stops initiated due to erratic driving. While most people pull over when they see a police car with flashing lights or sirens, some people are unaware that they are being chased and continue driving. Although police are allowed to follow fleeing individuals, there are limits to what they can do to apprehend them in situations involving misdemeanors. The United States Supreme Court affirmed this in a recent ruling issued in a case in which the defendant was charged with a DUI following a warrantless arrest. If you are faced with charges that you committed a DUI crime, it is in your best interest to speak to a Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer about your options.

The Defendant’s Arrest

It is alleged that the defendant was blaring his horn and listening to loud music while driving. He drove by a police officer, who immediately began following him. In an attempt to compel the defendant to stop, the officer turned on his overhead lights. The defendant kept driving, though, and eventually entered his garage. The officer stopped the defendant’s garage door from closing, stepped into the garage, and began interviewing the defendant. He noticed that the defendant smelled like he had been drinking alcohol and was acting inebriated.

According to reports, the police then asked the defendant to take field sobriety tests. The defendant performed poorly on the tests and was arrested for DWI. Lab tests revealed that his BAC was over three times the legal limit. The defendant asked for the evidence against him to be suppressed, claiming that it was obtained without a warrant, in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The court refused his motion, and the case went to the Supreme Court following a series of appeals.

Warrantless Searches in Cases Involving Misdemeanor DUIs

The Court ultimately decided that an officer’s pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor defendant, without other exigent factors, is insufficient justification for a warrantless search. Instead, each case must be assessed on its own merits to see if there are any exigent circumstances. The Court further stated that an officer might enter a home without a warrant if the exigencies of the case necessitate immediate action and there is insufficient time to get a warrant. Such situations may arise when an officer is attempting to avoid the destruction of evidence, a suspect’s escape, or an injury. The Court did, however, clarify that the mere fact that a suspect flees is insufficient to establish the urgency required to justify a warrantless entrance into a dwelling. In the subject case, the Court determined that there were no urgent circumstances that justified the officer’s entry into the defendant’s residence. As a result, it overturned the lower court’s decisions.

Meet with a  Knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

When the police are investigating DUI crimes, they must abide by the law, and if they do not, the evidence they obtain may be suppressed. If you are accused of a DUI crime, it is smart to meet with an attorney to discuss your rights.  Zachary B. Cooper is a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer with the skills and resources needed to help you seek a favorable outcome, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Cooper through the online form or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a meeting.