February 23, 2015

First Offense DUI: All Evidence Suppressed!

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This past week my client faced three days in jail and one year license suspension for a first offense DUI charge that occurred on Route 1 in Chester County, PA. My client was traveling on Route 1, observing the speed limit when two Pennsylvania State Troopers pulled him over. The two officers were traveling in the same cruiser. When they followed my client, they claimed that my his license plate lights were out and that gave them probable cause to stop his vehicle. In Pennsylvania, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion that a violation of the motor vehicle code is occurring to stop a vehicle. This is commonly referred to as probable cause. If a police officer pulls over a vehicle and does NOT have probable cause to stop that vehicle, all the evidence that follows the illegal stop must be suppressed. Suppressed means the evidence gets thrown out. Attorneys will typically challenge probable cause for the stop in what is known as a pre-trial suppression hearing. In order to have a suppression hearing the attorney must file a pre-trial motion to suppress the evidence within 30 days of arraignment.

In this particular case, my office knows that the Pennsylvania State Police use MVR’s or mobile vehicle recording systems. These tapes are typically referred to by my clients as dashcam videos. In a cruiser equipped with an MVR, when the police officer puts on his lights or sirens, the MVR starts recording and records 30 seconds (I believe) prior to activating the lights. In Delaware County and Chester County many local law enforcement agencies do not use MVRs. However, the state police do have their cruisers equipped with MVRs. Once we requested discovery, the prosecutor provided my office with a copy of the MVR. When I watched the video, I didn’t notice anything in particular. The cruisers light were reflecting off of my client’s license plate and I couldn’t tell if the license plate light was illuminated. However, when I replayed the video and paused it in a certain spot, you could see clear as day, two taillights and fully a fully illuminated license plate. At the hearing this week, we played the video for the judge at a suppression hearing in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. Of course, the judge suppressed all evidence and my client walked without further penalty.  Now my client is eligible to get his arrest record expunged. After reviewing the video, the two state troopers took the witness stand under oath and stated that the license plate light was out. They tried to argue that the video was confusing and was not accurate. The prosecutor tried to argue this in closing argument.

Contact my office for a free consult if you or someone you love is charged with a DUI. My phone number is (610) 299-0295.


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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