from the Order Entered May 9, 2016 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Lycoming County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: SHOGAN, J., MOULTON, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appeals from the May 9, 2016
order entered in the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas
granting Navarro Banks' motion to suppress physical
evidence. Because we conclude that the trial court abused its
discretion in granting Banks relief on grounds not asserted
in his motion to suppress, we reverse.
facts of this case are undisputed. On July 21, 2015,
Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole Agent
Kriger received an anonymous tip that Banks was
violating his parole. Based on this allegation, Agent Kriger
and Agent Tracy Gross (together, "the Agents") went to
Banks' parole-approved residence and knocked on the door.
Banks answered the door and spoke with the Agents on the
front porch; Agent Gross did not see any contraband from the
porch and could not remember whether the front door was open
during the conversation. The Agents asked Banks whether
"he had anything in his home that would violate his
parole." N.T., 4/29/16, at 5. Banks admitted that he had
a firearm and some synthetic marijuana in the house. Based on
that admission, the Agents entered the residence and located
the firearm, which was hidden behind Banks' bedroom door,
and the synthetic marijuana, which was in a bag in the living
room. The Agents then called the police, who obtained a
search warrant and seized the firearm, the synthetic
marijuana, seven cell phones, a digital scale, and another
bag containing synthetic marijuana.
was arrested and charged with possession with intent to
manufacture or deliver a controlled substance
("PWID"), possession of a controlled substance,
possession of drug paraphernalia, and persons not to possess
firearms. On March 9, 2016, Banks filed a motion to
suppress, arguing that the Agents "lacked reasonable
suspicion to search [his] residence since [the] search was
based on an unreliable, uncorroborated, anonymous tip, "
and, as such, the physical evidence recovered from that
search should be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree.
Mot. to Supp., 3/9/16.
April 29, 2016, the trial court held a hearing on the motion.
Banks' argument at the hearing was consistent with the
argument in his written motion. His counsel stated that
"the simple fact that [the Agents] went to [Banks']
home based on an anonymous tip[, ] . . . with the purpose of
trying to find contraband, forms the basis of an unreasonable
search because the tip was not corroborated." N.T.,
4/29/16, at 10. In response, the trial court asked counsel
about the Agents' initial contact with Banks:
THE COURT: Okay, let me ask you a question.
[BANKS' COUNSEL]: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Are you saying that they're not allowed to
even go to his house, knock on the door, and ask him
questions? Because that's what they said. I mean it's
- let me try to ask the question differently. It seems like
the testimony was, hey we got this tip he was doing stuff he
shouldn't have been doing, so we decided to check it out.
We go to his door, we knock on his door, he comes out, we ask
him a question, he answers the question. It's not a
search at that point, is it? I - I guess that's what your
contention is, though.
[BANKS' COUNSEL]: Our contention is that at that point
they have made contact solely because of the uncorroborated
anonymous tip. This isn't a regularly scheduled home
visit, this isn't even a random home visit. Because the
sole purpose was due to this anonymous tip that it tainted
the whole process, including going to his home and submitting
him to questioning about what might be found within.
THE COURT: Okay, so . . . your argument is that they're
not allowed to even go the home and ask him questions based
on an anonymous tip, because the asking of questions
constitutes a search?
[BANKS' COUNSEL]: We would submit that without
corroborating the evidence - or the . . . tip itself, that it
was improper for them to place Mr. Banks - to go to Mr.
Banks'  residence and yes, and to - to put him under
questioning concerning that uncorroborated tip.
THE COURT: That's my point. You have to use the search
and/or seizure language. So what you're saying is when
they went there, knocked on the door, and he came out and
they started asking him questions, that it was a search?
[BANKS' COUNSEL]: Yes, we would argue that either he was
seized at that point, and ...