Commonwealth v. Beeker, PICS Case No. 14-0256 (C.P. Lawrence Jan. 22, 2014) Piccione, J. (14 pages).


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Reasonable Suspicion/Probable Cause • Search and Seizure • Exclusionary Rule

Commonwealth v. Beeker, PICS Case No. 14-0256 (C.P. Lawrence Jan. 22, 2014) Piccione, J. (14 pages).

Where a police officer follows a suspect's vehicle out of his jurisdiction without having established probable cause for the purpose of gathering evidence, and doesn't conduct a stop and arrest pursuant to one of the exemptions of the MPJA, evidence obtained as a result of the stop and arrest should be suppressed. Granted.

Officer Michael Lynch of the Shenango Township Police Department received a dispatch call regarding a suspect and the description of his vehicle. Officer Lynch found defendant James Beeker in his vehicle, which partially matched the dispatch description. Officer Lynch followed Beeker into the neighboring municipality of New Castle. Beeker pulled into a driveway and shut off his car; deciding to return to Shenango, Officer Lynch turned around in a parking lot, at which point Beeker pulled out of the driveway and began "creeping" into New Castle. Office Lynch pulled behind Beeker, while still in New Castle, and initiated a traffic stop. Smelling alcohol and observing an open container of beer, Officer Lynch began conducting field sobriety tests. The New Castle Police Department arrived during this time and permitted Officer Lynch to continue the field sobriety tests and administer a breathalyzer, which Beeker failed, leading Officer Lynch to place him under arrest.

Beeker filed a pretrial motion seeking suppression of the evidence obtained against him as a result of the stop and dismissal of all charges, arguing that Officer Lynch did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to effectuate a traffic stop, nor was he authorized to effectuate a stop outside of his jurisdiction.

The court noted the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act, which permits an officer to exercise police authority outside of his jurisdiction under a limited set of circumstances. The commonwealth argued that Officer Lynch was authorized either under the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, because he was in hot pursuit of Beeker, or because he was on official business when he had probable cause to believe Beeker had committed an offense.

The court found that Officer Lynch only observed Beeker committing a violation, entering a public roadway at night without lights, while in New Castle. It further noted that Officer Lynch did not have probable cause while in his own jurisdiction, and could not follow a vehicle into a neighboring jurisdiction to obtain information to have probable cause, nor could the New Castle sergeant authorize Officer Lynch's stop. The court further found that no chase occurred between Officer Lynch and Beeker, nor was Officer Lynch conducting official business when he came upon Beeker.

The court considered whether application of the exclusionary rule would be applicable in this case. It noted that application of the rule was proper where an officer engaged in "an extrajurisdictional fishing expedition." The court found that Officer Lynch entered New Castle in the hopes of gathering more evidence to obtain probable cause, and consequently initiated an unauthorized stop and arrest.

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