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The weaving of a vehicle within its own lane can provide the requisite reasonable suspicion that a police officer needs to conduct an investigatory stop, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled in an apparent case of first impression. “In the instant case, the trial court found that appellant wove from one side of his lane to the other and that this weaving continued over a distance of approximately two miles,” Judge Joseph A. Hudock wrote for the unanimous panel in Commonwealth v. Baumgardner. “Our careful inspection of the certified record indicates that these findings are supported by the testimony of [the investigating officer]. We conclude that the severity of the weaving, combined with its duration, sufficed to justify Officer [Jeffrey] Potteiger’s suspicion of intoxication and his stop of appellant’s vehicle.” The opinion affirms a decision from a Cumberland County trial judge denying Christopher Baumgardner’s motion to suppress evidence. Baumgardner was found guilty of driving while his operating privilege was suspended due to a previous driving-under-the-influence conviction. Baumgardner was sentenced to the mandatory fine of $1,000 and ordered to serve 90 days in jail. He appealed his sentence to the Superior Court, presenting only the suppression issue for review. The evidence presented before the trial court stated that Officer Potteiger observed Baumgardner traveling on Carlisle Pike in Silver Spring Township around 2 a.m. on June 25, 1999. The officer said Baumgardner swerved “from side-to-side” in the right-hand lane for approximately two miles. The officer, suspecting Baumgardner was driving drunk, then pulled him over for further investigation. Upon finding out that the driver’s license was suspended, the officer then took Baumgardner into custody. Baumgardner argued on appeal that swerving in a single lane did not amount to conduct warranting an investigatory stop for a violation of a motor vehicle code. Having no Pennsylvania case law to rely on, the trial court had turned to a number of decisions from across the country for guidance. Hudock said the appeals court could only find decisions from two states — Illinois and Ohio — where a court ruled that weaving within one’s own lane is not sufficient enough to justify an investigatory stop. “Thus, we conclude that the great weight of authority supports the conclusion that weaving within one’s own lane may support an investigatory stop based on suspicion of intoxication, under the specific circumstances of this case,” Hudock wrote. The court, however, recognized that there were different degrees of weaving, and not every form of weaving would constitute reasonable suspicion. “In this we are persuaded by those decisions that hold that the weaving must be more than ‘slight,’ ‘minimum’ or ‘subtle’ or that it must be ‘excessive,’ ‘pronounced’ or ‘exaggerated,’ ” Hudcock wrote. “We also wish to emphasize that a single instance of swerving or weaving, without more, does not constitute sufficient facts for an officer to articulate a reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence of alcohol.” The court, therefore, concluded that the stop in Baumgardner’s case was valid based on the officer’s observations.

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