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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. LAVONIA DAVIDSON (11/30/89)

filed: November 30, 1989.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
LAVONIA DAVIDSON



Appeal from the Order entered October 21, 1988 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal No. 88-01-713-14.

COUNSEL

Karen L. Grigsby, Asst. Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for Com., appellant.

Owen Larrabee, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Cirillo, President Judge, and Kelly and Cercone, JJ.

Author: Cirillo

[ 389 Pa. Super. Page 168]

This is an appeal from an order entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County suppressing evidence taken from the purse of the appellee, Lavonia Davidson. For the following reasons, we reverse that order.

Police Officer Alvin Ventour stopped Davidson, her boyfriend Herbert Reid, and her young son for a traffic violation at 52nd and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. During the stop, Officer Ventour noticed that the pockets of the driver, Reid, were bulging, and that a plastic bag partially protruded from one. Since he was alone when he made the traffic stop, Officer Ventour radioed for backup. He then asked Reid to exit the car, performed a frisk, and determined that the plastic bag he had initially seen contained what he believed to be cocaine. With the assistance of back up units that had responded to his radio call, Officer Ventour arrested Reid. The search incident to that arrest revealed over $3000.00 in cash and numerous plastic bags of white powder on his person.

Pursuant to Officer Ventour's orders, Davidson had remained in the passenger's seat of the car during this time. After Reid's arrest, Officer Joseph Cornell was told to take the car to the police station; Davidson and her son were still in the car.*fn1 Officer Cornell testified that during the drive to the police station, Davidson asked him whether Reid was being arrested, how long he would be detained, and if she could have the car when they reached the district. After Officer Cornell replied that he did not know, Davidson reached for her handbag. Officer Cornell asked her not to touch the bag, testifying that he felt unsafe having her do so while he drove. She ignored him and reached for her purse again; he then took the purse and placed it between his legs. He testified that it felt "very heavy."

When Officer Cornell and Davidson reached the police station, Davidson asked if she could leave. Officer Cornell replied that she would have to wait until his supervisor as

[ 389 Pa. Super. Page 169]

    well as Reid and the other officers involved in the arrest arrived. She then asked to use the bathroom, and requested the return of her handbag. Before returning the handbag to Davidson, Officer Cornell opened the bag to search it. He found a .25 caliber automatic pistol, 113 vials of "crack" cocaine, some cocaine in powder form, and several packages of marijuana. Davidson was then arrested, and charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and violations of the Uniform Firearms Act.

In an omnibus pretrial motion, Davidson moved for suppression of the evidence seized from her bag. The suppression court granted the motion, finding that Officer Cornell had neither probable cause nor a reasonable basis for the search. The Commonwealth filed this appeal, certifying that suppression of the evidence in question will substantially impair its prosecution of the charges against Davidson. See Commonwealth v. Dugger, 506 Pa. 537, 486 A.2d 382 (1985).

In reviewing a suppression order we are bound by the hearing court's findings of fact, unless we determine that those findings are not supported by the record. Commonwealth v. White, 358 Pa. Super. 120, 123, 516 A.2d 1211, 1212 (1986). When the evidence supports the factual findings of the suppression court, we may reverse only if there is an error of law. Commonwealth v. Reddix, 355 Pa. Super. 514, 518, 513 A.2d 1041, 1042 (1986). We may, however, review the legitimacy of the inferences and legal conclusions drawn from those findings of fact. Id. Here, ...


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