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[U] Commonwealth v. Carter

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 3, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellant
v.
HYKEEM CARTER Appellee

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order July 6, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-51-CR-0000285-2012

BEFORE: BENDER, J., BOWES, J., and LAZARUS, J.

MEMORANDUM

LAZARUS, J.

The Commonwealth appeals from an order, entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, granting Hykeem Carter's motion to suppress evidence of violations of the Uniform Firearms Act.[1] Upon review, we affirm.

The Honorable Carolyn Nichols made the following findings of fact:

On November 9, 2011, at approximately 9:00 p.m., Officer Matthew Blaszczyk and his partner, Officer White, were on routine patrol in the area of 700 East Madison Street, near the intersection of G Street in the City and County of Philadelphia . . . . Officer Blaszczyk was familiar with the area as a known drug area and had made several arrests in the area. He also testified that he received non-specialized training from the police academy.
While driving northbound on G Street, Officer Blaszczyk testified that he observed [Carter] standing on the northeast corner of the intersection. As they approached the intersection, [Carter] began to walk southbound on G Street. The officers circled back around the block and observed [Carter] again standing on the northeast corner of G Street. The officers observed a large bulge in the left pocket of [Carter]'s jacket that appeared to be weighing it down. The officers continued to circle the block 3 or 4 times, each time observing [Carter] with the bulge in his jacket pocket. Each time the officers passed [Carter], he appeared to be turning his body away from the officers so they were not able to observe the bulge in his pocket.
After observing [Carter] for approximately 10 minutes, both officers exited the vehicle and approached [him]. Officer Blaszczyk testified that he could not tell that the bulge was in fact a firearm, only that it was a sharp angle and that it appeared to weigh down the jacket. Additionally, Officer Blaszczyk did not observe [Carter] interacting with anyone in the 10 minutes they observed him. The officers conducted a pat-down for weapons, immediately felt the bulge in [Carter]'s jacket and determined it was a firearm. A Walther P-22 model handgun, which had part of its serial number altered, loaded with eight live rounds, was recovered from [Carter].

Trial Court Opinion, 10/3/2012, at 2-3 (citations omitted).

On June 5, 2012, Carter moved to suppress all physical evidence obtained by Officer Blaszczyk. Judge Nichols denied the initial motion, but then granted leave to file a motion requesting reconsideration. After additional arguments on June 6, 2012, Judge Nichols granted Carter's suppression motion. The Commonwealth timely appealed that decision.

The Commonwealth raises the following issue for our review:

Did a police officer on patrol in a high-crime neighborhood lack reasonable suspicion to frisk defendant where he observed him on a known drug corner with a weighted bulge with a sharp edge in his jacket pocket and reasonably believed the object was a gun based on more than 75 gun arrests, and defendant, four times within a ten-minute ...

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