What Is A Pretextual Stop?

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."

At Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, in Harrisburg, our DUI lawyers vigorously investigate all aspects of your case, from the initial police stop through the filing of charges against you, to determine whether your rights were upheld. Our attorneys have over 65 years of combined experience skillfully defending people against charges of underage drinking, DUI, ARD, DUS and related drunk driving charges. We have helped hundreds of people who face your charges, and we can help you.

Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Esquire, will evaluate whether an officer's pretextual stop violated your rights and will aggressively pursue the best outcome possible in your case. Contact our firm at 717-827-4074 or 866-765-0706 today.

Are Pretextual Stops Legal?

There are several possible arguments as to why ultimate seizure is impermissible under Pennsylvania law. The broadest claim is that the stop was based upon a "pretext." Pretextual stops are illegal. While the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected this argument, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has not definitively decided this matter [Com v. Lehman, 857 A.2d 686 (Pa.Super. (2004), where a 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.

Protect Your Rights By Hiring An Experienced DUI Attorney

If you have been charged with DUI or a related offense, your most important step is to remain silent and cooperate 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 percent 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.

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.