Commonwealth v. Alexander is a significant decision that will impact the litigation of motions to suppress for the coming years. In Alexander, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overruled Commonwealth v. Gary, 91 A.3d 102 (Pa. 2014), holding that Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution affords greater protection to Pennsylvania’s citizens than the Fourth Amendment … Read more
In State v. Nyema, following the denial of his suppression motion, the defendant pleaded guilty to robbery. On appeal, Nyema argued that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle in which he rode. The New Jersey Appellate Division agreed and reversed. At the suppression hearing, the arresting officer testified that, after he was … Read more
For a primer on the Independent Source Doctrine in Pennsylvania, read Commonwealth v. Katona. There, the trial court issued an order authorizing a consensual wiretap that would allow a confidential informant to wear a recording device inside of the defendant’s residence, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 5704(2)(iv). The order authorized continuous interceptions of all in-home … Read more
In Commonwealth v. Barr, the Superior Court recognized the changing marijuana laws’ effect on a police officer’s probable cause determination. After he was pulled over by the police, officers smelled burnt and raw marijuana emanating from the defendant’s car. The defendant subsequently showed his medical marijuana card to the officers. Nonetheless, the officers searched the … Read more
In Commonwealth v. Brame, the Superior Court concluded that the totality of circumstances — including officers’ observation of Brame tossing a knotted plastic bag into a vehicle followed by the vehicle’s occupant tossing a roll of money into Brame’s vehicle, as well as the officers’ training and experience — provided reasonable suspicion for an investigatory … Read more
The Superior Court reversed the trial court’s suppression order in Commonwealth v. Richard. The Court ruled that that the totality of the circumstances presented—marijuana discovered on Richard’s person, his visible nervousness as well as his inability to tell the officer where he was going, and the strong smell of marijuana emanating from inside the vehicle—provided the … Read more
In United States v. Williams, the 3rd Circuit affirmed the convictions of ten codefendants whose claims of error involved the right to a public trial, suppression as well as other evidentiary issues, and sentencing. In a 107-page opinion, the Court did not find merit in most of the defendants’ claims. But the 3rd Circuit vacated one … Read more
The Superior Court vacated the defendant’s convictions and remanded for a new trial in Commonwealth v. Schneider. The public servant exception of the community caretaking doctrine — an exception to the warrant requirement established by the PA Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Livingstone — did not excuse the officers’ warrantless entry into the defendant’s residence. The Superior … Read more
In Commonwealth v. Way, the Superior Court affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress, finding that a police officer, in light of his experience, observed and articulated specific facts, which caused him to reasonably believe the defendant and another individual were engaged in a drug transaction.
In Commonwealth v. Carmenates, the Superior Court vacated the trial court’s suppression order, holding that, despite an apparent language barrier, Carmenates’s consent to the trooper’s search of a vehicle was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.