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Commonwealth v. Bowens

Pennsylvania Superior Court

October 19, 2021

In a 62-page opinion, an en banc panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions. The charges stemmed from the stop of a car in which the defendant rode as the front-seat passenger. During the traffic stop, the police searched the vehicle’s glove compartment and found guns and drugs. The police later searched the defendant’s cell phone pursuant to a warrant, recovering incriminating evidence. The defendant filed a motion to suppress, which the trial court denied. A jury found him guilty of the charges, and the trial court launched him. A three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the suppression motion and granted a judgment of acquittal based on the evidence’s insufficiency. The Commonwealth filed a petition for reargument. An en banc panel reversed the three-judge panel and reinstated the defendant’s convictions. The Court’s lengthy opinion is full of excellent case law–What?! You are not an appellate nerd, like us?–but is summarized as follows: 1.) The evidence was sufficient to convict the defendant. 2.) The trial court correctly denied the suppression motion because the warrant for the search of the cell phone already in police custody was “executed” the moment the officers secured it. 3.) The trial court properly admitted the challenged text messages as having sufficient indicia of authenticity. 4.) The trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that sentences above the guideline range were warranted in this case.

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