Pretextual Stops

Harrisburg Criminal Defense Attorneys Video 866-765-0706 Shaffer & Engle in Millersburg and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, handles all types of criminal cases. They do everything from misdemeanors to felonies.

A Special Note about Pretextual Stops, Consent and Motor Vehicle Code Violations

Some police officers stop cars on a pretext- for example, a moving violation such as a "defective taillight" or for having "fuzzy dice" on the rearview mirror- so that they may justify a search of the driver, occupants and the interior of the car. In many instances, the officer may seek to justify the seizure of items in the car based upon operator consent to the search or upon plain view- that is, the contraband was in full view and its illegal nature was "readily apparent."

There are several possible arguments as to why the ultimate seizure is impermissible under Pennsylvania law. The broadest claim is that the stop was based upon a "pretext." Pretextual stops are illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has rejected this argument. But, the PA Supreme Court has not definitively decided this matter. Com v. Lehman, 857 A.2d 686 (Pa.Super. 2004 (pretextual stop of a boat is invalid). Even assuming that the police may legitimately stop a car for a motor vehicle violation when their motive is to investigate the occupants for drug offenses (racial profiling), the courts have required that cause be independently established before allowing searches of the occupants or the car.

Elisabetha K.H. Pasqualini, Esq. will evaluate whether an officer's pretextual stop violated your rights and will aggressively pursue the best outcome possible in your case.

If you have been charged with DUI or other drinking and driving related offense, your most important first-step is to remain silent and cooperative with the police. Under Pennsylvania drunk driving laws, anything you say or do may be used by the prosecution and police to establish that you had a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the .08 alcohol concentration limit at the time of the stop. A drunk driving conviction in Pennsylvania will cost you a significant fine and possible jail time, and will result in losing your driver's license.

At the DUI defense law firm of Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, our Harrisburg DUI lawyers vigorously defend your rights at every phase of a drunk driving charge, from the initial police stop through the final disposition of your case. We will fully explain your rights and the charges against you. Our DUI attorneys have over sixty-five years of combined experience skillfully defending people against charges of underage drinking, DUI, ARD, DUS, and other drunk driving related charges. We have helped hundreds of people who face your charges, and we can help you.

If you, or a family member, has been charged with DUI or other drunk driving related charge, contact the Harrisburg DUI Lawyers of Shaffer & Engle Law to talk to us about how we can use our experience for your defense.

Learn more about DUI arrests on our Criminal Law Blog.