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04/21/97 COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ERIC WILLIAMS

April 21, 1997

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
ERIC WILLIAMS, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Judgment of Superior Court entered July 13, 1995 at No. 3472PHL94 vacating the Judgment of Sentence entered August 2, 1994 and remanding to the Court of Common Pleas, Delaware County, Criminal Division at No. 4894-93. JUDGE(S) BELOW: CCP - Hon. Maureen F. Fitzpatrick / Superior - ROWLEY, PJ., TAMILIA, HESTER, JJ.

Before: Flaherty, C.j., And Zappala, Cappy, Castille, Nigro And Newman, JJ. Opinion BY Mr. Justice Castille

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Castille

OPINION OF THE COURT

JUSTICE CASTILLE

DECIDED: April 21, 1997

The issue on appeal is whether evidence seized from appellee's bedroom after a warrantless search by his parole officer should be suppressed where appellee signed a form giving an agent of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("Parole Board") consent to search his premises as a condition of his parole. Because we find that the evidence should not be suppressed under the facts of this case, we reverse the order of the Superior Court and reinstate the judgment of sentence entered by the trial court.

BACKGROUND

The relevant facts are that appellee was convicted in 1989 of possessing 1,012 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver. On March 7, 1990, appellee was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two (2) to six (6) years. On April 8, 1992, appellee was paroled from prison and his case was assigned to Parole Agent Schuler of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole for supervision. Before being released from prison, appellee signed a form entitled "Conditions Governing Parole/Reparole." As a condition of his parole, appellee listed his residence as being on West Sixth Street in Chester, Delaware County, Pennsylvania and he agreed to abstain from the unlawful possession or sale of narcotics. The form also included the following condition:

I expressly consent to the search of my person, property and residence without a warrant by agents of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. Any items in the possession of which constitutes a violation of parole/reparole shall be subject to seizure, and may be used as evidence in the parole revocation process.

On June 30, 1993, appellee's case was transferred to Parole Agent Bray for supervision. Agent Bray was instructed by his supervisor to visit appellee at his residence. However, prior to visiting appellee, Agent Bray received information from a person he regarded as a reliable confidential informant that appellee was once again involved in dealing drugs. Agent Bray's inquiry to the local police also confirmed his confidential informant's information since the local police informed Agent Bray that one of their confidential informants also reported that appellee was involved in dealing drugs.

On July 1, 1993 at approximately 9:00 p.m., Agent Bray went to appellee's residence at West Sixth Street in Chester. Agent Bray was met at the door by appellee's mother and was informed that appellee was not present. Agent Bray asked appellee's mother if he could look around and appellee's mother initially consented. However, when Agent Bray reached appellee's bedroom, appellee's mother changed her mind and revoked her consent to the search. Agent Bray informed appellee's mother that he was entitled to conduct the search because he believed that appellee may be engaging in actions which would violate the terms of his parole. Appellee's mother did not respond to Agent Bray's comments and Agent Bray proceeded to search appellee's bedroom.

During the search, Agent Bray found 182.2 grams of cocaine, some of which was packaged in individual plastic bags, along with an Accu-lab pocket scale and five (5) .380 caliber rounds of live ammunition. Agent Bray telephoned the Chester police and notified them of his discovery of these items. The Chester police responded to Agent Bray's telephone call by going to the residence, seizing the items in question found in appellee's bedroom and obtaining a warrant for appellee's arrest.

On July 14, 1993, a criminal complaint *fn1 was filed charging appellee with possession of cocaine with intent to deliver *fn2 and illegal possession of drug paraphernalia. *fn3 Prior to trial on these charges, appellee filed an omnibus motion to suppress the evidence seized from his bedroom based on the assertion that the search violated his constitutional rights since it was performed without a warrant, lacked probable cause and violated the knock and announce rule. On May 12, 1994, the trial court conducted a hearing on appellee's motion. At the hearing, the Commonwealth introduced the parole form signed by appellee granting consent to the Parole Board to search his residence. At the Conclusion of the hearing, the trial court denied appellee's motion to suppress.

On July 19, 1994, after a one day jury trial, appellee was convicted. On August 2, 1994, appellee was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of seven (7) to fourteen (14) years on the possession with intent to deliver charge and a concurrent term of ...


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