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COMMONWEALTH v. LEWIS (03/18/71)

decided: March 18, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
LEWIS, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Superior Court, Oct. T., 1969, Nos. 230 and 231, affirming judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Oct. T., 1967, Nos. 1003 and 1004, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William S. Lewis.

COUNSEL

I. Leonard Hoffman, with him Ettinger, Poserina, Silverman, Dubin, Anapol & Sagot, for appellant.

David Richman, Assistant District Attorney, with him Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorney, James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, 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 dissents. Mr. Justice Cohen took no part in the decision of this case.

Author: Eagen

[ 442 Pa. Page 99]

William S. Lewis was convicted of receiving stolen goods and conspiracy after a trial before a judge without a jury. Post-trial motions were denied, and a prison sentence of 11 1/2 to 23 months was imposed on the receiving stolen goods conviction.*fn1 On appeal the Superior

[ 442 Pa. Page 100]

Court affirmed without opinion [Judge Hoffman noted a dissent]. We granted allocatur to examine whether or not certain incriminating evidence offered against Lewis at trial resulted from a constitutionally impermissible search and seizure.*fn2

The pertinent facts disclosed by the record are these:

At about 4 a.m. on June 7, 1967, a police officer stopped a panel truck operated by Lewis for a violation of The Vehicle Code [operating a motor vehicle without lighted rear lights]. William Brown was a passenger in the vehicle at the time. The officer asked Lewis for identification cards, and he produced his driver's license and a recently dated rental agreement for the truck from the Hertz Company. The lessee named in this agreement was Francis Nagle. The officer then observed four cartons in the truck, secured with binding steel bands. The flap of one of the cartons was open. The officer asked Lewis and Brown how they came into possession of the cartons, and what the cartons contained. One of the occupants of the vehicle replied that the cartons were found on the highway and contained old rags.*fn3 The officer entered the truck and looked into the partially-opened carton, and then informed Lewis and Brown that he was taking them and the truck to police headquarters for investigation.

At headquarters the cartons were removed from the truck and opened by the police without a search warrant having been obtained. A quantity of men's pants were enclosed. Lewis and Brown were released from custody with the truck about 6 a.m., but the cartons were retained.

[ 442 Pa. Page 101]

In the weeks that followed, a police investigation ensued and on September 26, 1967, it was ascertained that the cartons involved and their contents had been stolen during a burglary of a business property in Philadelphia on June seventh. Warrants were then issued charging Lewis and Brown with receiving stolen goods and conspiracy. At their subsequent trial, the cartons, plus the testimony of ...


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