Submitted January 6, 2014
Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Westmoreland County, Criminal Division, No.: CP-65-CR-0004413-2012. Before BLAHOVEC, J.
Peter M. Caravello, Assistant District Attorney, Greensburg, for Commonwealth, appellant.
Gregory L. Cecchetti, Public Defender, Arnold, for appellee.
BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.,
BOWES, J., and WECHT, J.
The Commonwealth appeals the trial court's July 13, 2013 order granting appellee Adam Stem's motion to suppress pictures that were obtained from a warrantless search of Stem's cellular telephone, a search that was conducted incident to Stem's arrest for reasons unrelated to his cellular telephone. Because the United States Supreme Court recently held in Riley v. California, U.S., 134 S.Ct. 2473, 189 L.Ed.2d 430, 2014 WL 2864483 (2014), that such warrantless searches violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, we affirm.
On August 14, 2012, Stem was arrested and charged with seventeen counts of possession of child pornography. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6312(d). Prior to trial, Stem filed a motion to suppress the pictures that were found on Stem's cellular telephone, and which formed the basis for the seventeen criminal counts against him. On April 30, 2013, the trial court held a hearing on Stem's motion. The court summarized the evidence presented at that hearing as follows:
[Allegheny Township police officer] Daniel Uncapher was the sole witness to testify. He stated that he has been employed as a police officer for Allegheny Township since 1993. On August 14, [2012,] he was working the afternoon shift in full uniform in a marked patrol vehicle. Officer Uncapher was familiar with Mr. Stem prior to August 14 of 2012.
[Officer Uncapher] was dispatched to Sandalwood Apartments for a reported domestic [violence incident] involving [Stem] and Ashley Dale. Officer Uncapher had some recollection that [Stem's] name came up with a no trespass order at Sandalwood. Upon arrival at the apartment[,] Ashley Dale was uncooperative and would not respond to police about the whereabouts of [Stem]. Mr. Stem, however, answered [the officer's call] and the officer located him seated behind the kitchen sink. Officer Uncapher placed him into custody due to the fact that he believed there was a " no trespass order against him" [and] detained him for " criminal trespass inside the structure." When he placed [Stem] into custody, Officer Uncapher searched him and found a cell phone in his right front pocket. After [Stem] was handcuffed, he was placed in the back of the police cruiser. At that time, [Stem] was not free to leave, nor was he free to leave the police station while sitting in the processing room. It was clear that [Stem] was under arrest prior to Officer Uncapher looking at his cell phone. Officer Uncapher did not ask Mr. Stem for permission to search his cell phone after he was placed under arrest. At the police station, Officer Uncapher inspected [Stem's] cell phone. [Stem] was under arrest prior to Officer Uncapher turning on the phone and searching the cell phone data. The cell phone photos are not immediately displayed when the cell phone is turned on. To the contrary, the picture data must be accessed by proactively opening it. In order to do so, the picture icon must be touched. In the instant case, Officer Uncapher accessed the picture data by hitting the picture icon.
Trial Court Opinion (" T.C.O." ), 7/16/2013, at 1-2 (citations to notes of testimony omitted). When Officer Uncapher accessed the picture data on Stem's cellular telephone, the officer uncovered what appeared to be a photograph depicting child pornography. Based upon this discovery, Officer Uncapher applied for, and received, a search warrant that, when executed, revealed
a total of seventeen photographs depicting child pornography.
On July 13, 2013, the trial court issued an opinion and a corresponding order granting Stem's motion to suppress the photographs located on the cellular telephone. On August 2, 2013, the Commonwealth filed a notice of appeal, wherein the Commonwealth certified that the trial court's July 13, 2013 order " will terminate or substantially handicap its ability to prosecute" Stem in accordance with Pa.R.A.P. 311(d). On August 30, 2013, the trial court directed the Commonwealth to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). On August 26, 2013, the Commonwealth timely complied with the trial court's Rule 1925(b) order. On September 3, 2013, the trial court issued a statement pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) indicating that the Commonwealth's appeal lacks merit, and that the reasons supporting the court's conclusion appear in its July 13, 2013 opinion and order granting Stem's suppression motion.
The Commonwealth raises a single issue for our review: " Did the trial court err in suppressing images depicting child pornography discovered in [Stem's] lawfully seized cellular ...