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decided: September 15, 1972.


Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, April T., 1971, No. 330, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. John Young.


Andrea Levin and Francis S. Wright, Assistant Defenders, and Vincent J. Ziccardi, Defender, for appellant.

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.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, Cercone, and Packel, JJ. Opinion by Packel, J.

Author: PACKEL

[ 222 Pa. Super. Page 357]

The defendant appeals from conviction of unlawful use and possession of narcotics. He contends that his arrest was without "probable cause" and that therefore evidence of contraband discovered on his person during the ensuing search should have been suppressed.

At the suppression hearing the arresting detective detailed the circumstances which led him to arrest defendant. After entering a friend's stamp shop he heard the defendant ask for one thousand glassine envelopes and then say to a companion "we ought to make a thousand dollars out of this." He recalled that his philatelist friend had complained of a disturbing increase of sales of the envelopes to persons who seemed to be drug pushers rather than stamp collectors. The detective believed that the store was located in an area frequented by drug pushers who would obtain their supply in New York City and return by train, debarking at a nearby terminal. Based upon some experience with the hobby of stamp collecting as a boy, he concluded that no collector would have a use for that quantity of glassine envelopes. Moreover, he had seen these envelopes used to package heroin on numerous occasions. During part of his duty as a police officer he worked down the hall from the narcotics unit and based upon many opportunities to observe addicts, he believed that the rapid speech, watery eyes and giddy, carefree, over-exaggerated behavior of the defendant suggested that he was under the influence of narcotics.

It is now black letter law that the test of probable cause is not mere suspicion or conjecture but rather is whether the facts and circumstances of a particular situation would warrant a man of reasonable caution to believe that a crime has been or is being committed. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 176 (1949) is the generally recognized standard bearer in the probable

[ 222 Pa. Super. Page 358]

    cause area and contains a thoughtful analysis of the tension created by the underlying policies: "These long-prevailing standards seek to safeguard citizens from rash and unreasonable interferences with privacy and from unfounded charges of crime. They also seek to give fair leeway for enforcing the law in the community's protection. Because many situations which confront officers in the course of executing their duties are more or less ambiguous, room must be allowed for some mistakes on their part. But the mistakes must be those of reasonable men, acting on facts leading sensibly to their conclusions of probability. The rule of probable cause is a practical, non-technical conception affording the best compromise that has been found for accommodating these often opposing interests. Requiring more would unduly hamper law enforcement. To allow less would be to leave law-abiding citizens at the mercy of the officers' whim or caprice." That case also teaches that (338 U.S. at 175): "In dealing with probable cause, however, as the very name implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of every-day life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act."

The standard of probable cause is more easily formulated and analyzed than given application to a set of facts. Fortunately we are aided by certain appropriate corollary principles.

Because the whole is necessarily more than any of its parts in law as well as mathematics the standard of probable cause must be applied to the totality of the circumstances facing the officer and not each individual element apparent before the arrest, Commonwealth v. Hughes, 219 Pa. Superior Ct. 181, 188, 280 A.2d 556, 560 (1971) ...

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