Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence April 18, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-22-CR-0002146-2010
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stevens, P.J.:
BEFORE: STEVENS, P.J., PANELLA, J., and MUNDY, J.
OPINION BY STEVENS, P.J.:
This is an appeal from the judgment of sentence entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County after Appellant Robert McAdoo was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, possession of a small amount of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.*fn1 Appellant claims the trial court erred in denying his suppression motion when officers illegally detained him by requesting his identification without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. We affirm.
On April 8, 2010, the Harrisburg City Police Department received a tip from an individual residing in a halfway house who reported that another resident had confessed to a homicide and claimed he buried the body in a wooded area behind Hall Manor two days earlier. Hall Manor is a federal housing community known for its large volume of drug activity and violent crimes; officers investigate assaults, burglaries, robberies, and homicides there on a regular basis. The informant also indicated the alleged murderer had recently escaped from the halfway house.
Upon receiving this tip, four Harrisburg police officers commenced a search behind Hall Manor to locate the dead body. During their search, the officers observed a man standing alone in the woods. Officer Fenton approached him and asked what he was doing there. The man, later determined to be Appellant, replied that he was on his cell phone. Officer Simmons indicated the officers were "canvassing the area," and asked for Appellant's name. After Appellant identified himself, Officer Simmons relayed his name to the police communication center for a warrant check.
Given the police suspected a murderer had recently buried his homicide victim in these woods, Officer Simmons expressed concern about his safety as he was unable to see Appellant's hands as Appellant's back was facing the officers. Officer Simmons told Appellant it was necessary to frisk him for the officers' safety. When conducting a patdown of Appellant's pants pockets, Officer Simmons indicated he felt a hard object inside plastic, but did not remove it. Shortly thereafter, the police communication center reported to Officer Simmons that Appellant had an arrest warrant for a parole violation. As such, Officer Simmons placed Appellant under arrest, conducted a search incident to arrest, and discovered Appellant in possession of a baggie containing 3.4 grams of cocaine, a baggie containing 3.1 grams of marijuana, two cell phones, a razor blade, and $20 U.S. currency.
After Appellant was charged with the aforementioned offenses, he filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from his person, which the trial court subsequently denied. On April 12, 2011, Appellant proceeded to a stipulated waiver trial in which the trial court convicted him on all charges and imposed an aggregate sentence of two to four years imprisonment in state prison. This timely appeal followed.
Appellant raises one issue for our review on appeal:
[DID] THE SUPPRESSION COURT ERR IN DENYING APPELLANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OBTAINED AS A RESULT OF AN ILLEGAL SEARCH AND SEIZURE IN VIOLATION OF THE FOURTH AMENDMENT OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ARTICLE 1, SECTION 8 OF THE PENNSYLVANIA CONSTITUTION?
Appellant's Brief, at 4. When reviewing a challenge to a trial court's denial of a suppression motion, our standard of review is as follows:
Our standard of review in addressing a challenge to the denial of a suppression motion is limited to determining whether the suppression court's factual findings are supported by the record and whether the legal conclusions drawn from those facts are correct. Because the Commonwealth prevailed before the suppression court, we may consider only the evidence of the Commonwealth and so much of the evidence for the defense as remains uncontradicted when read in the context of the record as a whole. Where the suppression court's factual findings are supported by the record, we are bound by these findings and may reverse only if the court's legal conclusions are erroneous. Where, as here, the appeal of the determination of the suppression court turns on allegations of legal error, the suppression court's legal conclusions are not binding on an appellate court, whose duty it is to determine if the suppression court properly applied the law to the facts. Thus, the conclusions of law of the courts below are subject to our plenary review.
Commonwealth v. Hoppert, 39 A.3d 358, 361-62 (Pa. Super. 2012) (quoting Commonwealth v. Jones, 605 Pa. 188, 198, ...