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Commonwealth v. Petty

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 10, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellant
v.
DESHANNON PETTY, Appellee

         Appeal from the Order May 12, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-51-CR-0007741-2015

          BEFORE: SHOGAN, SOLANO, and PLATT, [*] JJ.

          OPINION

          SHOGAN, J.

         Appellant, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, appeals from the May 12, 2016 order granting the suppression motion filed by Appellee, Deshannon Petty.[1] Following our careful review of the record and the law, we reverse and remand.

         The suppression court summarized the facts as follows:

The Philadelphia Narcotics Unit set up surveillance at the target location of 5203 "C" Street, City and County of Philadelphia. On each of the following dates drug purchases were completed using a confidential informant. The dates were June 11, 2015, June 23, 2015 and June 25, 2015. The seller of the drugs, on each occasion was Darnell Faison [("Faison")]. Following the purchase of June 23, 2015, Police Officer London requested and received Search and Seizure Warrant #189157 for the location stated above. A final purchase was made on June 25, 2015, and Defendant Faison was arrested after which the Warrant was executed. Entry to the building was gained using keys which were recovered from Defendant Faison at the time of his arrest.
Upon gaining entry to the home, Officer London and Officer Floyd went to the second floor where they encountered Defendant Petty who was in bed in the rear bedroom. Petty was with a female. The officers ordered Petty to get up, so Petty reached for his pants which were lying on the floor. Officer Floyd ordered Petty to stop then the officer searched the pants, going into the pockets of the pants prior to turning the pants over to Petty. During the "in pocket" search United States currency and a wallet containing photo identification for Petty were recovered. The officer also removed from the pants pocket a package which he believed to be narcotics. Petty had not been involved in any of the prior drug transactions.

Suppression Court Opinion, 8/12/16, at 1-2.

         Appellee was arrested on June 25, 2015, and charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver, conspiracy, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.[2] Appellee filed a motion to suppress on October 21, 2015, asserting that drugs found in the pocket of his pants should be suppressed. On May 12, 2016, the trial court held a suppression hearing. The Commonwealth presented the only witness, Philadelphia Police Officer Nathan London; Appellee presented no witnesses. Immediately following the hearing, the trial court dictated its findings of fact and conclusions of law and granted the motion to suppress. N.T., 5/12/16, at 50-53. The Commonwealth filed a timely notice of appeal; both the Commonwealth and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

         The Commonwealth presents the following issue for our review:

Did the lower court err in suppressing [Appellee's] drugs, which were found in a pair of pants laying [sic] on the ground in a house being searched pursuant to a valid warrant?

         Commonwealth's Brief at 4.

         Our standard of review of a trial court's order granting a defendant's motion to suppress evidence is well established:

When the Commonwealth appeals from a suppression order, we follow a clearly defined standard of review and consider only the evidence from the defendant's witnesses together with the evidence of the prosecution that, when read in the context of the entire record, remains uncontradicted. The suppression court's findings of fact bind an appellate court if the record supports those findings. The suppression court's conclusions of law, however, are not binding on an appellate court, whose duty is to determine if the suppression court properly applied the law to the facts. Commonwealth v. Miller, 56 A.3d 1276, 1278-1279 (Pa. Super. 2012) (citations omitted). "Our standard of review is restricted to establishing whether the record supports the suppression court's ...

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