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Commonwealth v. Griffin

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

May 12, 2015

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
GLENN GRIFFIN, Appellant

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence, April 17, 2014, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Criminal Division at No. CP-02-CR-0006838-2013. Before MACHEN, J.

Timothy G. LaVoie, Public Defender, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Rebecca G. McBride, Assistant District Attorney, Pittsburgh, for Commonwealth, appellee.

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., DONOHUE AND ALLEN, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1140

FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.

Glenn Griffin appeals the judgment of sentence entered on April 17, 2014, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Following careful review, we reverse.

The facts of this case, as established at the suppression hearing, are as follows. In the early morning hours of May 1, 2013, Pittsburgh police officers conducted a traffic stop based upon their observation of an inoperable rear brake light on the vehicle. (Notes of testimony, 11/14/13 at 15.)[1] The cruiser's dash cam was activated a few moments before the stop took place and it recorded the entire incident. Officer Nathan Auvil testified that appellant, a passenger in the vehicle, stepped out of the rear passenger side door and proceeded to walk toward the police car. (Id. at 18.) When appellant was immediately ordered

Page 1141

to get back in the vehicle, he went back to it but he did not get into the car. (Id. at 18-19.)

Officer Auvil believed that appellant was armed as he observed appellant " adjusting his pants" and " looking around" . (Id. at 19-21.) Based upon Officer Auvil's experience and training,[2] along with his observation that appellant was " generally just moving his clothing more than what would be usual" and " looked nervous," Officer Auvil conducted a Terry[3] frisk. (Id.)

Q. And what did you feel inside?
A. I felt a large baggie with what felt to be a powder like substance inside and the baggie was knotted at the top.
Q. Okay. And based on your training and education, experience, et cetera what did you believe you were feeling?
A. I thought it was packaged narcotics.
Q. Okay. Did you have to manipulate it in anyway upon -- when you first felt it, did you have to manipulate it in any way to draw that conclusion?
A. I knew immediately, however I did manipulate further because the item was so large I wanted to make sure there was ...

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