Failure to Identify Suspect in Court

The client was at a Penn State football tailgate outside of Beaver Stadium, when she saw two uniformed police officers walk by. Regrettably, at Penn State tailgates, the police and Liquor Control Enforcement officers run these Underage Drinking sting operations in which a group of undercover officers take surveillance positions while a uniformed officer walks through the tailgates, and the undercover officers approach any person that puts down a beer or red solo cup upon seeing the uniformed officer. Basically, the people undercover officers are looking for people that are acting guilty by hiding the beer and walking away. In this case, the undercover officer approached the client after the client set down her beer, and the subsequent questioning of the client led the police to conclude that she was under 21 and had been drinking alcohol. The client was charged with Underage Drinking in violation of 18 Pa.C.S.A. 6308.

At the summary trial before a judge in State College, defense lawyer Jason S. Dunkle represented the client and realized that the police officer may a few fatal mistakes when testifying. First, he failed to identify the client in court as being the person who was cited on the date in question. Second, the officer failed to present circumstantial evidence that the can of beer that the client had possessed was a “malt or brewed beverage” as that phrase is determined by law. Basically, the possession of alcohol by a minor charge required the officer to present circumstantial evidence that the substance in the can was .50% alcohol or higher by volume. Attorney Dunkle argued that the client must be found not guilty because the police had failed to present sufficient evidence to prove the Underage Drinking charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Centre County judge agreed with the Underage Drinking defense lawyer and found the client not guilty. An expungement petition was filed to have the notation of the Underage Drinking charge removed from the client’s criminal record.