Case Result: Unconstitutional Detention in Penn State Dorm
The client attended a dorm party at the University Park Campus at Penn State. The party was raided by the campus police, and the officers stood at the door to the room and refused to allow anyone to leave unless they submitted to a portable breath test or PBT. If the suspect blew into the PBT and produced a zero reading, then they were permitted to leave. If the person tested positive for alcohol on the breath test, they were then required to produce photo identification, and anyone under 21 was charged with Underage Consumption of Alcohol under 18 Pa.C.S.A. 6308. The client submitted to the breath test, produced positive results, and was given a non-traffic summary citation for Underage Drinking.
The client retained criminal defense lawyer Jason S. Dunkle to provide representation in the alcohol-related offense before a State College judge. The experienced Penn State Underage Drinking defense attorney attended the summary trial and argued that the breath test results must be suppressed because the client did not truly consent to the test but was instead coerced into providing a breath sample. In order for consent to be valid, it must be voluntarily given. Here, the police refused to permit the client to leave the dorm until he consented to a breath test. Attorney Dunkle also argued that evidence of the client’s age must be suppressed because the police illegally detained the client. In order for an officer to conduct an investigative detention, the officer must have individualized and particularized suspicion that a person was involved in criminal activity. In this case, the fact that the client was attending an underage party was not evidenced that the client was drinking or otherwise engaged in any criminal activity. The police did not observe the client in possession of alcohol, and the officer did not testify that the client was detained because he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. The State College Magisterial District Judge agreed with the legal arguments of the defense lawyer and granted the suppression of evidence. Without evidence that the client was under the age of 21, the judge found the client not guilty. An expungement petition was filed with the Centre County Court of Common Pleas to have the underage consumption of alcohol charge removed from the client’s criminal records.