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PA Supreme Court to consider parked car DUI case

Is Pennsylvania's DUI law broad enough that it applies to an intoxicated person sitting in his vehicle in an empty parking lot in front of his own business? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will take up the question this year.

The central issue of the case is the trial court's decision not to suppress the arresting officer's statements. The defense argues that police had no legitimate reason to approach the defendant in his vehicle. The defendant's conviction was based in large part on the testimony of the arresting officers.

According to court records, the arresting officer noticed the defendant's vehicle parked in front of a storefront at approximately 3 a.m. Thinking it was suspicious, the officer waited for the vehicle to leave. Eventually, the officer approached the vehicle on foot and tapped on the car window. Once the officer made contact with the defendant, he determined the man was under the influence of alcohol and took him into custody. The prosecutor maintains that the officer only approached a suspicious vehicle and did not need any probable cause to do so.

An individual convicted of DUI may be facing suspension of driving privileges, fines and even jail time. A DUI conviction can have severe ramifications in an individual's personal life as well including loss of employment. Not every arrest for DUI results in a conviction, however. An attorney with experience in criminal defense law may be able to identify several options for that individual's defense. For example, an attorney may be able to have the drunk driving charges dismissed by showing that individual was stopped by the police illegally or that their rights were violated. An attorney may also be able to negotiate a more lenient sentence for that individual through a plea bargain. It is not uncommon for defendants to avoid the uncertainty of a trial by agreeing to a plea in exchange for a lighter sentence.

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