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State College DUI Case - Officer Can Detain Person Based upon Report of Reckless Driving

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In a recent State College DUI case, a Centre County judge held that an officer can detain a person after receiving a report of reckless driving. In the case, a Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole officer was following a vehicle as it drove on state route 45 towards Boalsburg shortly after midnight. While following the vehicle, the probation officer observed the vehicle cross the center line of the roadway 4 to 5 times over a 5 mile span. The probation officer then contacted 911 to report the "swerving" and "erratic driving", and he remained on the phone with the 911 dispatch while he followed the vehicle to the parking lot of the McDonald's restaurant. The 911 dispatch then sent a State College police officer to investigate the alleged reckless driving. The officer arrived at the scene, detained the driver of the other vehicle, and a subsequent investigation led the officer to arrest the driver for suspicion of DUI. After receiving the blood alcohol test results from the hospital, the officer filed DUI charges in a State College district court.

State College DUI Lawyer Seeks Suppression of Evidence

The State College DUI defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress evidence and argued that the State College officer did not have reasonable suspicion to believe that the driver had violated the law, so all evidence found as a result of the unconstitutional detention must be suppressed. The primary argument was that the only the 911 dispatcher and not the officer knew the details of the driving, so the officer did not have sufficient information to create reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

In denying the DUI defense attorney's suppression motion, the Centre County judge stated that it was sufficient that someone in law enforcement knew the details of the erratic driving and thereby had reasonable suspicion. Since the 911 dispatcher determined that reasonable suspicion existed, the State College officer was permitted to conduct the detention based upon the dispatcher's decision.

Detailed Tip is Sufficient to Justify Traffic Stop

This State College DUI case shows that an officer can conduct a traffic stop based upon a tip, but the court partially based its decision on the fact that the tipster's identity and occupation were known, and the report was detailed.  A judge is less liekly to hold that a vague tip from an unknown source constitutes reasonable suspicion to justify a detention.  If the officer didn't have reasonable suspicion, then the judge orders the suppression of evidence found as a result of the constitutional violation.

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