Sentencing in Drug Case Vacated
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently vacated a defendant’s conviction for drug charges upon a finding that the evidence was obtained as a result of an unlawful search and seizure. In 2008, the defendant was arrested and charged with possession and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance after he was found carrying large quantities of marijuana and crack cocaine. An on-duty officer had noticed the defendant on a street corner with three separate individuals over the course of an hour, each time entering a near-by grocery store when he noticed that the patrol car. Although the defendant had entered the store on three separate occasions, he never appeared to make any purchases.
After making these observations, the officer pulled alongside the defendant and requested his identification, exiting the patrol car. The officer then went back inside his car to run the defendant’s license, making conversation with him during this time. After discovering that the defendant had an outstanding warrant, the officer placed him under arrest. The officer then performed a routine search of the defendant and found thirty-six bags of crack cocaine, eleven bags of marijuana, and $1235.00. In 2009, the defendant was convicted in Berks County of two counts each of possession of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
Upon review, the Superior Court held that the officer’s conduct in taking and maintaining possession of the defendant’s license while he ran a background check constituted an investigative detention, because no reasonable person in the defendant’s possession would have felt free to terminate the encounter with the officer and depart the scene. As such, the detention must have been based on the officer’s reasonable and articulable suspicion that the defendant was involved in criminal activity, which the Court further found that the officer lacked. The Court noted that the officers observations had been nothing more than the defendant meeting with three men and walking into and out of a grocery store, all of which were lawful activities.
Those accused of crimes are subject to the protections of the Constitution of the United States. An experienced criminal defense attorney ensures a defendant’s rights are protected. If you have been charged with, or convicted of an offense, you still have constitutionally protected rights which the Law Offices of Marc Neff will protect. For a confidential consultation, please contact our office at 215-563-9800 or via email at email@example.com.