United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani, United States District Judge
the Court is Defendant Prado's Amended Motion to Suppress
Physical Evidence and Incriminating Statements (Doc. 66).
After viewing the video evidence and the testimony of two
evidentiary hearings, the Court finds that additional
briefing is required.
Court provides a brief account of events pertinent to the
initial traffic stop that led to Defendant Prado's
arrest. On December 19, 2013, Pennsylvania State Trooper Paul
Lindsay initiated a traffic stop on Interstate 80 in Monroe
County, Pennsylvania, at approximately 9:58 A.M., for a
violation of 75 Pa.C.S. § 3309, driving on roadways
laned for traffic. (Doc. 74, 6/9/16 Tr., at 25:22-24.)
Trooper Lindsay testified that Defendant Prado crossed over
the white fog line and traveled on the right shoulder for a
couple of seconds. (Id. at 7:13-15; 26:2-3; 27:4-6.)
Trooper Lindsey testified, and the video evidence shows, that
Defendant Prado was traveling on a straightaway and was not
in danger of facing any oncoming traffic or vehicles on the
side of the road, (Id. at 27:21-28:4; Govt. Ex. 7,
Video.) Trooper Lindsay testified that it was the only motor
vehicle violation he observed with respect to Defendant
Prado's driving, (Id. at 26:11-13.) Trooper
Lindsey testified that he thought this motor vehicle
violation could have been the result of Defendant Prado being
sick or under the influence (Id. at 26:2-6), and
that he was concerned for Defendant Prado's safety, as
the shoulder of the road had some snow and ice accumulation
(Id. at 29:20-24). As a result, Trooper Lindsay
initiated a traffic stop, (Id. at 7:22-23.)
incumbent upon the Court at this stage, to find the facts and
weigh the credibility of the witnesses. After review of the
video evidence, testimony of the two suppression hearings,
and relevant case law, the Court has a grave concern of
whether the initial traffic stop was proper. At the
suppression hearing held before this Court, defense counsel
objected to Trooper Lindsay's characterization of the
video with respect to Defendant Prado's alleged violation
of Section 3309(1), leaving it to the Court to determine what
the video depicted. (Doc. 84, 12/13/16 Tr., at 35:9-14.)
Defense counsel then contradicted himself in a footnote in
his post-hearing brief, stating that Defendant Prado
"does not contest the propriety of the initial stop for
violation of § 3309 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle
Code." (Doc. 85 at 4 n. 2.)
factfinder, the Court cannot ignore the indisputable video
evidence, which does not show Defendant Prado crossing the
white fog line at any time. The video evidence does show that
at one point, Defendant Prado appeared to be riding alongside
and possibly touching the left side of the line with the
right side of his passenger side tire.
another point, Defendant Prado's right tire appears to be
riding on the line for a few seconds, but at no point does
the right tire ever cross the white fog line. In light of
federal and Pennsylvania case law, the parties shall address
whether the Defendant's actions violated Section 3309(1)
in a manner such that there was probable cause to pull
Defendant's car over.
asked whether it is a traffic violation in Pennsylvania when
someone weaves over and crosses the line, Trooper Lindsay
answered in the affirmative. (Doc. 74, 6/9/16 Tr., at
7:19-21.) The Court finds this statement inconsistent with
the statutory language of Section 3309(1) and relevant case
law, which suggests that it is not a per se violation.
(1) Driving within single lane. - A vehicle shall be driven
as nearly as practicable entirely within a single
lane and shall not be moved from the lane until the driver
has first ascertained that the movement can be made with
75 Pa.C.S. § 3309(1) (emphasis added). Safety
considerations and whether the deviation from the lane was
"momentary and minor" are taken into account when
determining whether the officer had probable cause to make a
stop for a violation of Section 3309(1). See
Commonwealth v. Gleason. 785 A.2d 983 (Pa. 2001)
(superseded by 75 Pa.C.S. § 6308(b)) (finding that a
lack of evidence of a safety hazard precluded finding that
probable cause existed for a Section 3309(1) violation);
Commonwealth v. Anderson, 2005 Pa. Super. 407 (2005)
(finding infractions not "momentary and minor"):
see also Commonwealth v. Chase. 960 A.2d 108, 116
(Pa. 2008) (distinguishing the circumstances of when
reasonable suspicion and probable cause are required to make
a stop); Commonwealth v. Feczko. 10 A.3d 1285 (Pa.
Super. Ct. 2010) (en banc) (applying the probable cause
standard to a stop made under section 3309(1)).
statutory language, "as nearly as practicable, "
permits minor deviations from the lane, as evidenced by case
law on the subject. See Commonwealth v. Enick, 70
A.3d 843, 847 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2013) (finding the statutory
language of Section 3309(1) does not foreclose minor
deviations). For example, in Gleason. the officer
observed the vehicle cross the solid fog line two or three
times, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that probable
cause did not exist for a Section 3309(1) violation.
in Commonwealth v. Turney, 2005 Pa. D. & C.
Lexis 498 (Armstrong Cnty. 2005), the court found that
probable cause did not exist when the motorist "crossed
the fog line on two occasions and then crossed over the fog
line completely so that the driver side tires touched the fog
line and the vehicle itself was on the berm."
Turney. 2005 Pa. D. & C. Lexis 498, at *3, 7.
The court noted that Pennsylvania courts have not found that
probable cause exists if the driving infraction is
"momentary and minor, " as compared to more serious
driving infractions that were sufficient to find probable
cause, Id. at ...