While stopped at a red light on Peach Street in Millcreek Township, an off-duty police officer noticed that the driver of the vehicle next to him had a marijuana bowl in his hand. According to the officer, the other driver had the bowl "to his mouth and he was lighting it with a butane lighter." The officer radioed for assistance from police on duty, before initiating a motor vehicle stop himself. In accordance to testimony at the preliminary hearing, the officer stopped the vehicle on suspicion of DUI, a misdemeanor, despite the absence of any violations of the Motor Vehicle Code. The off-duty officer then seized the drug paraphernalia before the arrival of local police.
After the preliminary hearing, Erie criminal defense lawyer Tim George filed a pre-trial motion seeking to suppress all evidence seized after the motor vehicle stop for various reasons, including that the off-duty officer had not been requested to aid or assist local police, he was not on official business at the time, he viewed what he believed to be a criminal offense, and the offense he observed before initiating the stop was not a felony. The defense also argued that the off-duty officer lacked the authority to initiate the stop, question the suspect, and/or seize the item of paraphernalia, all of which occurred beyond the territorial limits of the jurisdiction.
On the date set for the suppression hearing, the Commonwealth agreed to withdraw felony drug allegations, two misdemeanor drug charges, and resisting arrest in return for the entry of guilty plea to summary offense of disorderly conduct. As a result, the Minor received only a fine.
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