Q: I was a passenger in my vehicle when the driver made a sharp turn into a parking lot and parked behind large SUV’s. He exited the vehicle and ran to the wood line, 30 feet away. My dog ran after him, I exited the vehicle and retrieved my dog, not knowing why he did this. Upon walking behind my vehicle approximately one minute after this occurred, with dog, I noticed the state police cruiser sitting approximately 30 yards away. He approached me. Long story short, I was charged with a DUI. He never asked who was driving, or anything. As soon as I gave him my personal info, he soon exited his vehicle, no lights on, and immediately began a sobriety test. I didn’t refuse to cooperate with him but didn’t provide any info. I refused to test 2 two years ago, so I figured I’d best not refuse anything. Upon searching me, he found approximately 2 grams of Marijuana. What are the chances of conviction in court for a case like this. I was never seen operating the vehicle. This was not a traffic stop or DUI stop. Secondly, will the search be rendered illegal if the DUI is beaten in court? In other words, would the misdemeanor possession be void because it was found after the DUI arrest? (Jefferson Hills, PA)
A: I assume you are charged with DUI and possession? Operation of a motor vehicle is an essential element of every DUI prosecution. If the police cannot put you behind the wheel or there is not an abundance of circumstantial evidence that can allow a juror or trier of fact to conclude that you were behind the wheel, proof beyond a reasonable doubt may not exist. If the officer saw you pull up, you are sunk. If he didn’t your testimony about the phantom driver must be perfect to be believed by a Common Pleas Court judge. The issue about the search may not bode in your favor. It could be viewed as a safety pat down given this officer finds you in a secluded area, when he is alone with you. Or, it could be viewed as a search pursuant to arrest. It all comes down to what the officer puts in his report and what he testifies to. You will need a skilled trial attorney to spin this your way.