The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. This principle applies when a Pennsylvania police officer pulls a motorist over on suspicion of drunk driving. A vehicle stop is considered a seizure. Therefore, the vehicle stop must not be unreasonable. Pennsylvania had codified this standard in section 6308(b) of the Vehicle Code. Section 6308(b) authorizes Pennsylvania police officers to pull over vehicles based upon "reasonable suspicion that a violation of [of the Vehicle Code] is occurring or has occurred." This protection is extended to passengers in the vehicle, not just the driver.
If a vehicle stop is not supported by reasonable suspicion, the courts may penalize the government by suppressing the evidence the police derived from the illegal vehicle stop. Once Commonwealth's evidence is suppressed, the prosecution will typically not have enough evidence to go forward with the prosecution. If the suppression motion is granted you will probably "win" your DUI case and be discharged. Suppression is an effective way to beat a DUI case in some instances. A good defense attorney will file a "suppression motion" if the police execute an illegal vehicle stop. This motion will be filed prior to trial and a hearing will be scheduled before a Court of Common Pleas Judge. At this hearing it is the Commonwealth's burden to produce evidence that the vehicle stop was supported by "reasonable suspicion." The police officer will usually take the witness stand and testify as to his or her reasons for pulling the vehicle over. The defense will be given the opportunity to cross–examine the officer and produce evidence if needed. Once the hearing is over the judge has the option to grant the defense's motion and suppress the Commonwealth's evidence or deny the motion.
Contact Jason R. Antoine, DUI Attorney if you feel your vehicle has been illegally stopped by police. Our office is determined to protect your constitutional rights and file pre–trial motions to suppress evidence where applicable.