Checkpoints unconstitutional, Kraynak's attorney argues
SUNBURY - The attorney for a local doctor and school board member arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol at a DUI checkpoint in Coal Township in May argued Thursday that police did not have probable cause to charge his client, claimed the checkpoint was illegal and pointed out that the defendant was the only person charged with DUI during the checkpoint.
While Attorney James Zurick of Shamokin presented arguments on behalf of his client, Dr. Raymond J. Kraynak Jr., 55, of Kulpmont, in an attempt to have the DUI charge dismissed, Assistant District Attorney Melissa Norton called three police officers as witnesses who testified that Kraynak showed signs of being intoxicated at the May 26 checkpoint on Route 61 near Sam Bressi Motors, just east of Shamokin.
Kraynak, a practicing physician with offices in Ashland, Mount Carmel and Shamokin, and a member of the Mount Carmel Area School Board, is charged by Coal Township Patrolman Matthew Henrich with one count of DUI and has vowed to take the case to trial if he and his attorney are unsuccessful in having the charge dismissed beforehand.
He remains free on his own recognizance.
After hearing testimony and closing arguments from both attorneys, Wiest granted Zurick seven to 10 days to file a post hearing memorandum supporting his arguments. Norton also will have 10 days after the court receives Zurick's memorandum to file a memorandum supporting the commonwealth's case.
Zurick cited case law claiming the checkpoint or "roadblock" was unconstitutional because its location was selected by checkpoint coordinator and Coal Township Patrolman Terry Ketchem, who also participated in the checkpoint. The attorney claimed choosing the location of the checkpoint must be done administratively by the police chief of the department conducting the checkpoint rather than any participating officer.
Norton immediately countered Zurick's argument by stating that the checkpoint was legal, but also pointed out that the location of the checkpoint isn't even relevant in Kraynak's case.
"He got out of the car and approached an officer before the roadblock," she said. "It's unknown what help he was offering. He was confused, which was an indication of being an impaired driver. This would be treated like any DUI without the roadblock."
Sunbury Officer Stephen Bennick, who was the first witness, testified that he assisted with the DUI checkpoint, which was held from 10 p.m. May 26 to 3 a.m. May 27. At about 11:15 p.m., Bennick, who was responsible for contacting motorists as they approached the checkpoint, said he spotted a motorist later identified as Kraynak stop his Ford Mustang with its lights on and motor running, exit the vehicle behind a police car and walk toward him. The officer said Kraynak had been traveling north on Route 61 prior to stopping.
He said Kraynak was staggering as he walked toward the officer.
Bennick said, "He told me he was there to help and I asked him, help with what? He asked me if I knew who he was and then said his name was Dr. Kraynak."
Bennick said Kraynak smelled of alcohol and his speech was slurred.
The officer said he told Kraynak he was at a DUI checkpoint before escorting him across a concrete barrier to Ketchem because he suspected he was driving under the influence of alcohol.
Bennick said Ketchem then advised him to move Kraynak's vehicle from the highway. When he approached the car, Bennick said he noticed the gear shift was in neutral.
Ketchem testified that checkpoint locations are selected based on statistics for accidents and DUI-related incidents provided to police by PennDOT.
The officer said he observed the defendant staggering while Bennick was escorting him.
Ketchem said there were signs measuring 4-feet square that say "Sobriety Checkpoint" and "Be Prepared to Stop" in reflective markings posted 600 and 400 feet, respectively, before the actual checkpoint to warn motorists.
The officer said Kraynak asked him for some "professional courtesy" after the defendant told him he was there to help because he thought there was an accident.
Ketchem said he advised Kraynak that Henrich found enough evidence to arrest him for DUI.
When questioned by Zurick, Ketchem said police made only one DUI arrest (Kraynak's) during the checkpoint.
Henrich, who has made five or six DUI arrests since becoming a Coal Township officer about three years ago, testified that he received certified training for conducting DUI checkpoints in 2005 or 2006 when he was employed as a county deputy sheriff.
He said Kraynak failed field sobriety tests at the scene, which prompted him to arrest him for driving under the influence of alcohol. He said Kraynak's speech was slurred and he could detect an odor of alcohol on his breath.
Henrich said Kraynak took 12 steps instead of nine during a "walk and turn" test and left two-inch gaps when doing a heel-to-toe field sobriety test. The officer said Kraynak, who told him he had a bad back but still consented to the field sobriety tests, started to fall at one point while conducting a "one-legged" stand.
Under cross examination from Zurick, Henrich said Kraynak didn't sway or stagger while taking the field sobriety tests, but admitted to having a couple beers that night.
Henrich said the doctor refused to submit to a blood test or preliminary breath test and also refused to sign a form stating that he refused the blood test.
After telling him he was under arrest for suspicion of DUI, Henrich said Kraynak requested to speak to an attorney.
Upon summoning Kraynak's wife to the scene to drive him home, Henrich said Kraynak became "irate" and started yelling to his wife not to sign anything. The officer also claimed Kraynak told his wife to shut up at one point.
He said Kraynak's wife signed a form that allowed her to take custody of her husband.