Unconstitutional Detention of Passenger in Parked Car

The client was a Penn State student that was sitting in the driver’s seat of his vehicle with a few passengers in a State College parking lot. The State College police observed a passenger in the vehicle drinking alcohol. The police also noticed that the passenger had a “youthful appearance,” meaning the police believed that the passenger was under the age of 21. The police approached the vehicle and ordered everyone inside to provide identification. Upon discovering that the client was under 21 and was in a car that contained alcohol, the police issued the client a non-traffic summary ticket for Possession of Alcohol by a Minor under 18 Pa.C.S.A. 6308. At the summary trial in State College, experienced Penn State underage drinking attorney Jason S. Dunkle sought the suppression of evidence by arguing that the police did not have a reason to detain the client and force him to provide his identification. Before a police officer can detain a person for suspicion of drinking by a minor, the officer must have individualized and particularized suspicion that the person was involved in criminal activity. Here, the police clearly had a reason to detain and question the passenger that was in possession of alcohol and appeared to be a minor, the police did not have similar suspicion that the client had violated thaw law. When police find evidence as a result of an unconstitutional detention, the judge must suppress that evidence. The judge agreed with the defense attorney’s argument and suppressed the evidence because the detention of the client violated the client’s 4th Amendment right against unlawful searches and seizures. The judge found the client not guilty of the State College Underage Drinking charge. The State College expungement lawyer then filed a petition with the Centre County court to have the minor in possession of alcohol charge expunged or removed from the client’s criminal records.