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Case Highlights Factors for Police in Making DUI Stops

Police aggressively target motorists that they believe are driving under the influence. Whether the suspicious behavior is observed a traffic stop or a sobriety checkpoint, motorists may find themselves undergoing additional sobriety tests to determine if he or she is impaired.

A recent Pennsylvania case has led to some discussion concerning what police must observe before they can suspect that an individual has been driving under the influence.

In this case, a woman was stopped after a Pennsylvania State Trooper felt she was waiting too long at a flashing yellow light. She was also seen throwing a cigarette out the window of her car while stopped.

The officer stated that he could detect the odor of alcohol on the woman. However, the woman had not been drinking. In fact, the motorist believes she was stopped because her family members had written editorials about police behavior in the region. The officer made the woman perform field sobriety tests, which he determined the woman had failed.

When he asked the driver to submit to a field breathalyzer test, the woman refused, saying she believed the officer would not conduct the test honestly. She was subsequently taken to a hospital to have her blood drawn, where tests showed no alcohol present in her system.

Pennsylvania law states that anyone who is driving on state roads agrees to chemical, blood or breath tests if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the motorist has been drinking.

Pennsylvania courts have held that "reasonable grounds" means probable cause. In this case, there was an argument as to whether reasonable grounds were present to order the woman to submit to a breathalyzer, making implied consent an issue.

The case is progressing in the federal courts. The motorist contends that the officer made a wrongful DUI stop, and therefore subjected the driver to a false arrest and blood test.

Source: Newstalk990.com "Pa. woman's wrongful DUI stop claim set for trial" August 1, 2012.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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