Friends Running From Cop is not a Crime

The client was walking with two friends on the University Park Campus of Penn State late at night. The group was near a blue emergency phone when a Penn State Police officer drove by. The officer suspected that the group was up to no good, so he stopped his cruiser, got out, and began to walk towards the group of males. Upon seeing the Penn State officer approaching, two of the kids took flight and ran away, but the client remained near the light. The officer then detained the client and subjected him to a pat-down search for weapons. The warrantless search led to the discovery of cans on the client, and the officer removed the cans from the client’s pocket to discover that they were beer cans. The officer then put the client in the back of the police cruiser while the officer conducted a warrantless search of the client’s wallet. The officer found a fake ID card in the wallet. The officer then asked the client about the fake identification card and the beer cans. The client admitted to possessing the ID card and to having had consumed alcohol. The officer issued non-traffic summary citations for Underage Consumption of Alcohol under 18 Pa.C.S.A. 6308 and Possession of a False Identification Card under 18 Pa.C.S.A. 6301.3.

Attorney Dunkle was retained to attend the summary trial for both charges before the State College judge. The experienced Penn State criminal defense attorney raised numerous suppression arguments. First, it was argued that the officer conducted an unconstitutional detention of the client because the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to believe that the client was engaged in criminal activity. The fact that the other two males ran was not indicative that the client did anything wrong. The defense attorney sought suppression of the beer cans that were found based on the warrantless search of the client. In order to conduct a pat-down search for weapons, the officer was required to have evidence that the client was armed and dangerous. Also, before removing the beer cans under the “plain feel exception,” the officer was required to articulate how he immediately knew that the items were contraband or illegal. Under cross-examination, the officer testified that the cans could have been soda cans, so he admitted that he did not immediately know that the cans contained beer before they were removed from the client’s pockets. Attorney Dunkle argued that the fake ID must be suppressed because the officer did not have a warrant prior to searching the client’s wallet. Finally, the defense attorney argued that the client’s admissions to possessing the false identification card and to drinking alcohol must be suppressed because the client was not provided with Miranda warnings. The failure to issue Miranda warnings can result in the suppression of incriminating statements.

The State College judge agreed with the Underage Drinking defense attorney’s arguments and suppressed all evidence. The client was found not guilty of both the Underage Drinking and Possession of Fake ID charges. The State College expungement lawyer then filed a petition with the Centre County Court of Common Pleas to have the summary charges expunged from the client’s records.