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Centre County Judge Suppresses Blood Evidence in Bellefonte DUI Case

A Centre County judge recently presided over a Bellefonte case in which the State College DUI defense attorney filed a motion to suppress and argued that the arresting officer did not have sufficient probable cause to stop his client. In the case, caption Commonwealth v. Lose, CP-14-CR-2014-2014, a Bellefonte detective conducted a traffic stop of the suspect's car because the detective believed that the driver had failed to stop at a red light. During the traffic stop, the detective noticed general signs of intoxication about the driver, such as the odor of alcohol on breath, slurred speech, failure to successfully complete the field sobriety tests, and a positive result on the breath test. Based upon those intoxication indicators, the detective felt that he had probable cause that the man was driving under the influence, so the man was arrested and transported to the Mount Nittany Medical Center for a blood alcohol test. After the test results showed that the man's blood alcohol level was above the legal limit, the drunk driving charges were filed in Bellefonte with the district magistrate judge.

No Probable Cause to Stop Driver - Suppression of Blood Evidence in DUI

The DUI defense attorney from State College filed a pretrial motion to suppress and argued that the officer did not have probable cause to believe that the driver had committed a violation of the red light law. If the officer did not have a sufficient legal justification to conduct the initial traffic stop, then all evidence found as a result of the unconstitutional traffic stop is suppressed by the judge, which would include the evidence of the man's blood alcohol level.

At the suppression hearing, the defense attorney questioned the detective about the precise details of the suspect's driving. The detective testified that the defendant had run the red light, but the affidavit of probable cause that he filed with the charges stated that the driver had approached a "stale yellow light and the light turned red as he entered the intersection." Under section 3312 of the Vehicle Code, commonly called the Red Light law, a driver is required to "stop at a clearly marked stop line" when "facing a steady red signal." The yellow light warns a driver that the "green indication is being terminated or that a red indication will be exhibited immediately thereafter." This means that a driver is only required to stop at the marked line if the light is red. If the light is yellow, the driver is not required to stop at the line, and the light may turn red while the driver is still going through the intersection without violating the red light law.

In this case, because the officer was not clear in his testimony as to whether or not the light was red or just yellow when the driver passed the stop line, the court felt that the officer only had a hunch that the driver had violated the law. A mere hunch of a violation was not sufficient cause to justify the traffic stop, so the traffic stop violated the driver's constitutional rights. The judge granted the DUI defense attorney's motion to suppress evidence.

Anyone charged with a drunk driving defense should have an experienced DUI attorney review the matter. Every case is unique, and positive results in one case do not necessarily guarantee the same result in another case. However, hiring a criminal defense attorney substantially increases the likelihood of obtaining a favorable result or reducing the effects in a driving under the influence or other criminal case.

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