from the Judgment of Sentence June 3, 2015 In the Court of
Common Pleas of York County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., STABILE, J., and DUBOW, J.
H. Manuel and Timothy A. Manuel (referred to collectively as
"Appellants") appeal from their judgments of
sentence entered in the Court of Common Pleas of York County
after they were each convicted in a stipulated non-jury trial
of one count of possession with intent to manufacture or
deliver marijuana ("PWID"). The issue presented by this
appeal is whether a search warrant in which the reliability
of a confidential informant ("CI") and the facts of
criminal conduct that the CI provided the police have not
been adequately corroborated can supply the basis for either
a search or an arrest. Upon careful review, we are
constrained to conclude that it cannot and therefore reverse
the judgments of sentence.
16, 2014, Officer Michelle Hoover of the York Area Regional
Police Department met with a CI who advised her that, within
the prior 72 hours, he had been inside the premises located at
1110 Pleasant Grove Road, Red Lion, York County
("Pleasant Grove Residence"), and had observed
marijuana packaged for sale, multiple marijuana plants
growing, and marijuana growing accessories. The CI advised
Officer Hoover that a white male named Timothy Manuel lived
at the residence.
upon the information provided by the CI, as well as her own
training and experience, Officer Hoover applied for and
received a warrant to search the Pleasant Grove Residence and
all persons present. On June 20, 2014, the York County Drug
Task Force executed the warrant and found marijuana plants
growing in Appellants' bedrooms, as well as drug
paraphernalia, cash, and a digital scale. Appellants were
arrested and each charged with one count of PWID.
January 20, 2015, Appellants filed a joint motion to
suppress, arguing that the search warrant obtained by Officer
Hoover lacked sufficient probable cause because the police
did not perform any investigation to independently
corroborate the information provided to them by the CI. A
hearing was held on March 23, 2015, and, by order dated March
24, 2015, the trial court denied the suppression motion.
stipulated bench trial was held on May 1, 2015, at the
conclusion of which Appellants were found guilty of PWID.
Appellants were sentenced on June 3, 2015. Charles received a
sentence of two years' intermediate punishment,
consisting of two months' imprisonment on Outmate status,
followed by four months of house arrest and then probation.
Timothy was originally sentenced to six to twenty-three
months' incarceration; however, after Timothy filed a
motion for reconsideration of sentence, the court resentenced
him to a twenty-three month term of intermediate punishment,
consisting of three months' imprisonment, followed by
three months of house arrest and then probation.
filed timely notices of appeal, which this Court
consolidated. Appellants present the following issue for our
Whether the trial court erred in denying the Omnibus Pretrial
Motion to Suppress Evidence where the Application for a
Search Warrant and attached Affidavit of Probable Cause
lacked sufficient probable cause by failing to establish the
veracity and reliability of the [CI] and lacked independent
police corroboration of criminal activity, in violation of
the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania
of Appellants, at 3.
begin by noting our scope and standard of review of an order
denying a motion to suppress:
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. Farnan, 55 A.3d 113, 115 (Pa. Super.
2012), quoting Commonwealth v. McAdoo, 46 A.3d 781,
783-84 (Pa. Super. 2012) (citations omitted).
challenge the sufficiency of the information contained in the
probable cause affidavit. Specifically, Appellants assert
that the reliability of the CI was not established where the
CI had previously provided information leading to only one
arrest which had not yet, at the time the affidavit was
executed, led to a conviction. For the reasons that follow,
we are constrained to conclude that the information contained
in the affidavit of probable cause was legally insufficient
to support the issuance of a search and seizure warrant.
The legal principles applicable to a review of the
sufficiency of probable cause affidavits are well settled.
Before an issuing authority may issue a constitutionally
valid search warrant, he or she must be furnished with
information sufficient to persuade a reasonable person that
probable cause exists to conduct a search. The standard for
evaluating a search warrant is a 'totality of the
circumstances' test as set forth in Illinois v.
Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527
(1983), and adopted in Commonwealth v. Gray, 509 Pa.
476, 503 A.2d 921 (1985).
Commonwealth v. Rapak, 2016 PA Super 94, at *3 (Pa.
Super. 2016), quoting Commonwealth v. Ryerson, 817
A.2d 510, 513-14 (Pa.Super.2003) (quotation omitted).
Probable cause does not demand the certainty we associate
with formal trials. Rather, a determination of probable cause
requires only that the totality of the circumstances
demonstrates a fair probability that contraband or evidence
of a crime will be found in a particular place. Thus, where
the evidence available to police consists of an anonymous
tip, probable cause may be established upon corroboration of
major portions of the information provided by the tip.
Similarly, where the evidence consists of the allegations of
a police informant who has not previously provided
information, probable cause requires only corroboration of
principal elements of information not publicly available. As
recognized by the [U.S. Supreme] Court in [Illinois
v.] Gates, [462 U.S. 213 (1983), ] "[i]t
is enough, for purposes of assessing probable cause, that
'[c]orroboration through other sources of information
reduced the chances of a reckless or prevaricating tale,
' thus providing 'a substantial basis for crediting
Commonwealth v. Otterson, 947 A.2d 1239, 1244-45
(Pa. Super. 2008), quoting Commonwealth v. Brown,
924 A.2d 1283, 1286-87 (Pa. Super. 2007) (citations and
quotation marks omitted).
relevant portion of the Officer Hoover's affidavit of
probable cause provided as follows:
On June 16, 2014 I met with a reliable confidential informant
who advised they were inside 1110 Pleasant Grove Road, Red
Lion, PA 17356 located in Windsor Township of York County
within the past 72 hours. While in the residence, the
informant stated [he] observed marijuana packaged for sale,
multiple marijuana plants growing, and growing accessories
such as growing tools, soil, a humidifier and a grow tent.
This informant advised a [white male] named Timothy Manuel
lives in the residence.
The informant should be considered reliable due to the fact
that [he has] provided police with information that has led
to a felony drug arrest that is currently pending in the York
County Court system. This informant is familiar with what
marijuana looks like and how it is packaged in York County.
I ran a check through PENN DOT and observed Timothy Manuel
lists the address 1110 Pleasant Grove Road, Red Lion, PA
17356 as his residence. On 6/16/14 I viewed a red Mitsubishi
parked in the driveway of 1110 Pleasant Grove Road. The
vehicle is registered to Charles Manuel of 1110 Pleasant
Grove Road, Red Lion, PA 17356.
Based on the totality of the above circumstances, I know
through training and experience that narcotics dealers will
commonly use a location such as a dwelling to store or
"stash" larger quantities of narcotics, packaging,
material, and proceeds in order to protect their product(s)
and proceeds and to evade law enforcement. Based on my
training and experience, I know that narcotics dealers will
commonly keep a portion of their product and weapons on their
person. Therefore, I request to search all persons present
for officer safety reasons and to protect the destruction of
I believe that the premise known as 1110 Pleasant Grove Rd.
in Windsor Township[ i]s being utilized to grow, store,
package, and prepare marijuana for the purpose of street
level sales. Therefore, I ask for the issuance of a search
and seizure warrant for the ...