A 25-year-old Pennsylvania woman who was taken into custody on drunk driving charges in November 2018 and subsequently convicted and sentenced to prison is expected to be acquitted after a recent court ruling. A panel of Superior Court of Pennsylvania judges suppressed evidence gathered by the police officer involved after determining that she pulled the woman’s vehicle over without sufficient probable cause. After delivering their ruling, the judges referred the case back to the county court that heard original arguments.
Police officer considered frequent turns suspicious behavior
During the original trial, the police officer conceded that she did not see the woman break any traffic laws or drive erratically before pulling her car over. She also admitted that the woman’s vehicle did not appear to be damaged or faulty. The officer said that she decided to initiate a traffic stop after the woman made a series of turns. These turns led the officer to believe that the woman was attempting to elude her. The officer said that she found the behavior especially suspicious because there had recently been a series of burglaries in the neighborhood. The officer had been dispatched to the area to investigate reports of an illegal firework display.
County court judge sides with the police
The judge hearing the DUI case decided to allow evidence gathered during the traffic stop to be admitted and used against the woman. He made this decision even though no evidence was discovered linking her to the string of burglaries or the illegal fireworks display. The woman’s attorneys argued that this decision clearly disregarded rights protected by both the US and Pennsylvania Constitutions as it was based on nothing more than an unsubstantiated suspicion. The panel of appeals judges was swayed by this argument.
Fruit of the poisonous tree
When police officers violate a person’s constitutional rights, any evidence they subsequently gather is considered to be “fruit of the poisonous tree” and excluded. If you are accused of committing a crime following a traffic stop or warrantless search, an experienced criminal defense attorney may study the arrest report carefully to determine whether the police officer involved had probable cause to act the way he or she did. If probable cause was absent or questionable, an attorney could seek to get the charges against you dismissed.