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COMMONWEALTH v. STONER ET AL. (09/22/75)

decided: September 22, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
STONER ET AL., APPELLANTS



Appeals from judgments of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, Nos. 299 and 300 of 1972, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Donald Eric Stoner, John Michael Stoner, Robert McElroy and Donald Lee Smith.

COUNSEL

James S. Sorrentino, and Hassel, Yost & Sorrentino, for appellants.

Frederick F. Coffroth, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Price, J.

Author: Price

[ 236 Pa. Super. Page 162]

Appellants and two co-defendants were charged with possession of a controlled substance (marijuana)*fn1 and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance (marijuana).*fn2 Following the denial of a motion to suppress evidence, appellants were tried and found guilty by a jury. Each was sentenced to pay a fine of $1,000 and to undergo imprisonment for 6 months to 1 year.

The facts indicate that on October 3, 1972, Trooper Larry Williams of the Pennsylvania State Police stopped a car driven by appellant-Stoner for a traffic violation on

[ 236 Pa. Super. Page 163]

    the turnpike. Appellant-Smith and two other co-defendants were passengers in the car at that time. Upon request, appellant-Stoner produced his operator's license, but when one of the passengers opened the glove compartment to take out the vehicle registration card, a .38 caliber semi-automatic pistol dropped out as the passenger reached into the compartment.

Officer Williams immediately drew his service revolver, assumed a defensive position to the rear of the vehicle, and ordered the occupants out of the car. A "frisk" of the appellants and the co-defendants for additional weapons yielded several pocket knives. Because no one would admit owning the revolver, the officer placed all four persons under arrest for violation of the Uniform Firearms Act.

After placing the four suspects at intervals along the turnpike guardrail, Trooper Williams returned to the car to retrieve the pistol. At that time he observed a title to the car made out to one person and signed in blank to another without notarization. As he reached into the car to secure the pistol and the title, the officer noted a very distinct odor of marijuana about the interior of the vehicle. The trooper testified that he was very familiar with marijuana, and although he saw numerous marijuana seeds and leaves on the floor, seats, and clothing in the car, he was certain that the odor was too strong to be coming from the small amount of the drug he could see. However, before a more extensive search of the car was made, Officer Williams radioed for help.

Approximately five minutes later, Trooper Crossen arrived on the scene. At that time, the officers searched the trunk and found approximately 150 pounds of freshly cut marijuana in five burlap bags. These bags were placed in the police car and after another police officer was summoned, the appellants and the co-defendants were transported from the ...


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