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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. HARRY STEIN (08/20/82)

filed: August 20, 1982.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
HARRY STEIN, APPELLANT, AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA V. RICHARD A. DOLATA, APPELLANT



No. 217 Pittsburgh, 1981, No. 218 Pittsburgh, 1981, Appeal from the Judgments of Sentence, Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Criminal Division, at Nos. CC8001778A and CC8001668A.

COUNSEL

John F. Cambest, Pittsburgh, for appellants.

Stella Smetanka, Assistant District Attorney, Pittsburgh, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wieand, Johnson and Montemuro, JJ.

Author: Johnson

[ 303 Pa. Super. Page 337]

In this appeal, Appellants raise issues concerning both the sufficiency of the probable cause for their arrest and the validity of the search and seizure of incriminating evidence.

[ 303 Pa. Super. Page 338]

We hold that probable cause existed for their arrest and that the search and seizure was valid.

The events leading up to the arrest of Appellants, Richard A. Dolata and Harry Stein (hereinafter Dolata and Stein), are rather unusual.

At approximately 6:00 a. m. on the morning of February 13, 1980, Anthony J. Perella, an off-duty Pennsylvania State Trooper, happened to look out the window of his home. He saw a Ford sedan being driven to a parked position without any headlights burning, even though it was still dark.

Trooper Perella knew the car was strange to the neighborhood because he was a ten-year resident and was familiar with the cars of the area. Because the car was unfamiliar and was being operated without the needed headlights, Perella telephoned his barracks and ran a check on the registration of the vehicle. He learned that the car was registered to Appellant Stein.

When Perella went out of his home to observe more closely, the vehicle was driven to another parked position on another street. The occupants, two white males unfamiliar to Perella, exited the car. As he walked past, the two re-entered the car and drove away. Perella then returned home and telephoned his friend, Officer Figura of the Pittsburgh Police Department, to report his observations. Officer Figura asked to be notified if Perella were to see the car again in the neighborhood.

Eight days later at 6:15 a. m., Trooper Perella again observed the Ford sedan, and again, the car was being operated without needed headlights. It was backing up and turning around. Perella immediately contacted Officer Figura who joined him at approximately 6:50 a. m.

Figura recognized the single occupant of the car as Appellant Dolata, who was personally known by him to have been involved in previous burglaries in the Pittsburgh area. The officers then saw Stein, who was carrying a suitcase, walk towards the parked car. Perella recognized Stein as one of the two men he had seen in the car eight days earlier. Stein

[ 303 Pa. Super. Page 339]

    entered the car and put the suitcase in the back seat. The officers, feeling that some further action was necessary, pulled up in Figura's car, thereby blocking the passage of Appellants' vehicle. The officers exited their car with guns drawn and announced ...


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