Dashboard camera leads to dismissal of charges

Judge finds video shows no reason to have stopped man

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Driving under the influence and related charges filed against a Roaring Spring man were recently dismissed in Blair County Court based on a judge’s review of a dashboard camera video showing no reason for the man to have been stopped.

Court records show that charges filed in June against 54-year-old Bobby Jason Little were dismissed in February, about six weeks after Judge Timothy M. Sullivan reviewed the video and conducted a hearing on a motion for supression of evidence.

Defense attorney Thomas M. Dickey, who filed the motion on Little’s behalf, contended that Altoona police lacked sufficient reason on June 17 to require Little to pull over in the area of Seventh and Union avenues.

Court documents to support the charges indicate that Little made a wide turn from Seventh Avenue onto Union Avenue, temporarily moving into the opposite lane before returning to his own lane. Police also accused Little using only fog lights and not headlights at the time of nearly 2 a.m. stop.

During a December court hearing, patrolman Derek Swope named the wide turn and the use of fog lights as the two reasons for stopping Little.

But Little told the court that the vehicle he was driving doesn’t have fog lights and that its headlights were on at the time of the stop.

Sullivan, in his ruling, acknowledged that the officer believed the lights on Little’s vehicle were fog lights. But the judge described Little’s testimony as credible and upon reviewing the dashboard camera video, the judge said he was satisifed that the vehicle lights were on.

In addressing the wide turn, Swope testified that Little’s vehicle moved “a little bit” into the oncoming lane, also prompting Sullivan to examine the video.

“At most, it appeared that the driver’s side tires may have been on the the double yellow lines, but only for a very brief period of time until the defendant moved his vehicle completely within his lane of travel,” the judge wrote. “The defendant’s vehicle was entirely in his lane of travel when he passed the officer, who was traveling in the opposite direction. There is no evidence, nor did the video reveal, that the defendant was speeding, weaving veering or operating his vehicle in any erratic manner whatsoever.”

The charges filed against Little indicate that once he was pulled over, Swope administered a breath test, which registered positive for alcohol. Little also had difficulty following sobriety test commands, according to the criminal complaint.

But once the judge determined that police stopped Little without probable cause, that evidence became invalid and could no longer be used in court, Dickey said.

Sullivan recognized the same conclusion.