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Drunk driving arrest of sleeping man raises defense issues

An accused person must be driving a vehicle under Pennsylvania law in order to be convicted of driving under the influence. The issue sometimes arises when the police find someone who is sleeping in a car or was reportedly observed driving by witnesses but not by the authorities. The issue may arise in a recent drunk driving arrest by the state police in the Pocono Mountains area of the state.

Pennsylvania State Police from the Fern Ridge Barracks responded to a 1:15 a.m. call recently regarding a reported disabled motorist near the intersection of Evergreen Hollow Road and Route 715 in Chestnut Hill Township. State troopers found the vehicle with its tires partly on the roadway and with the driver asleep inside. When they woke him, police say that he displayed indicators of impairment.

Troopers say that they had the man exit the vehicle for the administration of field sobriety tests, which he allegedly did not pass. While placing him under arrest for drunk driving, he allegedly resisted both verbal commands and physical force. He reportedly kicked a trooper on the forehead while on his back on the ground. Police say that he tried to flee and had to be Tasered.

Police also say that they found a clear plastic baggie with methamphetamine when doing an inventory of the car. They charged him with a felony aggravated assault, possession of a controlled substance, drunk driving, simple assault and resisting arrest. Several legal issues may arise when criminal defense counsel investigates and evaluates the case with the criminal accused.

One issue may be whether there was enough evidence to conduct a drunk driving investigation under Pennsylvania law where the accused was found asleep and told the authorities that he has been sleeping for several hours. It may be arguable that the man was not "operating" a motor vehicle under legal precedent. In addition, it is unclear whether a blood alcohol test was taken, which may make it more difficult to prove DUI. Those issues, if successful, may also make a search of the vehicle improper, thus making the drugs subject to a motion to suppress the evidence.

Source: poconorecord.com, "Trooper kicked in head during DUI bust", Howard Frank, Aug. 16, 2017

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