YORK COUNTY, Pa. — An appeals court in York County has reversed a lower court’s decision to grant a Harrisburg man’s motion to suppress physical evidence he discarded after fleeing during a traffic stop.
In April 2017, Michael Dunham was stopped by police in a minivan after he abruptly changed lanes and perceived to be traveling at an unsafe speed. Prior to the minivan coming to a complete stop, Dunham — one of three passengers — fled on foot. Police said Dunham discarded a handgun and a small bag of marijuana — later recovered by officers — during a foot pursuit. He was arrested and charged with firearm violations and possession of marijuana.
The lower court cited testimony from an officer who couldn’t remember if he told Dunham to stop as a reason why the evidence was suppressed. According to Dunhman, police unlawfully pursued him and as a result, coerced him into discarding contraband.
The appeals court disagreed, noting that a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave and no verbal commands were necessary due to the forcible stop of a motor vehicle.