Can Police Stop a Car Based on Eyewitness That Saw It Swerving ?
In Commonwealth v. Micklos, 448 Pa. Super. 560, 672 A.2d 796 (Pa.Super. 1996), the defendant's vehicle was observed by an ambulance crew to have swerved across the center line of the highway and almost hit another vehicle.
The ambulance crew promptly radioed local police.
A police officer caught up to the ambulance on the highway, whereupon the ambulance crew pointed out the defendant's vehicle.
The officer then stopped the defendant's vehicle even though the officer did not personally observe any erratic driving on the part of the defendant.
The defendant failed field sobriety tests and his blood alcohol level yielded a reading of .140. Id. at 798.
The defendant then proceeded to a non-jury trial.
The defendant did not file a motion to suppress the evidence prior to the commencement of trial.
However, at the close of testimony defendant made an oral motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop.
The Commonwealth objected to the presentation of this suppression motion on the basis that it was untimely under Pa.R.Crim.P. 323.
Nevertheless, the trial judge elected to rule on the motion.
The trial judge did not conduct a hearing but instead considered the suppression issue on the basis of briefs submitted by both the Commonwealth and the defendant.
After considering both parties' briefs the trial court ultimately concluded that the evidence should have been suppressed.
The Commonwealth appealed and our Court reversed.
In reversing, what our Court said regarding the manner in which a trial court should consider an untimely oral suppression motion is quite applicable to the circumstances of the instant case.
Specifically we stated that:
A trial court, by excusing a party's failure to comply with the timing requirements of Rule 323 (b), cannot thereby disregard the remaining rules governing suppression motions.
Specifically, when a defendant files a motion to suppress, the trial judge is required to set a time for a hearing, either prior to or at trial "which shall afford the attorney for the Commonwealth a reasonable opportunity for investigation. . . ." Pa. R.Crim.P. 323 (e), 42 Pa. C.S.A.
At that hearing, the Commonwealth bears the burden of going forward and establishing that the challenged evidence was not obtained in violation of the defendant's rights. Id., Rule 323 (h).