A panel of Pennsylvania Superior Court judges has ruled that a man serving a prison sentence for offenses including vehicular homicide, aggravated assault and DUI should have a new trial. The judges determined that the York County judge who presided over the case made a mistake when he allowed blood evidence to be introduced that had been obtained by police without the man’s consent or a search warrant.
Man charged after fatal train collision
The man was sentenced in connection with a July 2014 accident that claimed the life of one person and injured another. According to a police report, the man’s vehicle was struck by a train at a railroad crossing on Cly Road in Slonnekers Landing. Police suspected that the man was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash because emergency workers and the train’s conductor told responding officers that he smelled of the drug.
Police should have obtained a search warrant
The county judge overruled a defense motion to have the blood evidence excluded because the judge determined that time was of the essence and the police had exigent circumstances. The appeals judges were not swayed by this argument as hospital staff took a blood sample from the man when he was admitted to a local hospital. This means the evidence had been preserved and police could have obtained a search warrant without jeopardizing their investigation.
Police shortcuts could lead to evidence being excluded
This case reveals that judges take rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment seriously, and it also highlights how police officers do not always follow proper procedure. This is why experienced criminal defense attorneys may study police reports with great care when their clients face DUI charges. If it appears that that police officers initiated traffic stops without probable cause or took shortcuts, attorneys may seek to have evidence excluded or the charges against their clients dismissed.