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COMMONWEALTH v. REECE (03/20/70)

decided: March 20, 1970.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
REECE, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Superior Court, No. 93, Oct. T., 1969, from judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Chester County, Sept. T., 1967, No. 573, in case of Commonwealth v. Robert Thomas Reece.

COUNSEL

D. Barry Gibbons, with him Gibbons and Buckley, for appellant.

William H. Lamb, Assistant District Attorney, with him Norman J. Pine, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Justice Jones concurs in the result.

Author: Eagen

[ 437 Pa. Page 424]

Robert Thomas Reece was arrested in Chester County and charged with violating The Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act,*fn1 specifically, the illegal possession of marijuana. Pretrial, Reece filed a timely motion to suppress certain evidence, i.e., a quantity of marijuana seized by the police in connection with his arrest. After a hearing, this motion was denied. Later, the challenged evidence was introduced at trial over objection. The jury returned a guilty verdict. Post-trial motions in arrest of judgment or for a new trial were dismissed, and a sentence was imposed. An appeal to the Superior Court resulted in an affirmance of the judgment by an equally divided court. We granted allocatur and now reverse.

The pertinent facts supported by the record are briefly these:

The Tredyffrin Township Police Department in Chester County, acting on information received that a "pot party" would take place in a certain apartment in the township on December 9, 1967, secured a search warrant authorizing a search of the apartment.*fn2

Pursuant to this warrant, police officers entered the apartment at approximately 7:30 p.m. on December 9, 1967, and proceeded to conduct a search of the premises. A thorough search revealed only a minute residue of amphetamine powder found in a small ball of cotton.

[ 437 Pa. Page 425]

During the course of the evening (between 8:00 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. of the following morning) approximately fifteen people arrived at the apartment -- all of whom were searched by the police. Some were found to be carrying narcotic drugs, while others were not. Charges were preferred against those who were found to be in possession of such drugs.

The critical minutes in this case began at 12:30 a.m. on the morning of December 10, 1967, with a knock on the apartment door. The door was slightly ajar and after the knock, Reece and a friend entered the apartment. A police lieutenant, dressed in street clothes, was standing directly inside the doorway. One of the two told him that they were looking for some friends who were supposed to be at the apartment. Thereupon, the lieutenant identified himself by name, rank and position in the police department, read to them from a printed card the "Miranda" warnings*fn3 and asked them if they understood what he had said (while his words were addressed to both, we will focus hereinafter on what was said and done to Reece). Reece acknowledged that he understood his rights. The lieutenant next told him that his clothing and person ...


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