Pennsylvania residents have the right to be secure in their homes. A recent trial court ruling in Central Pennsylvania illustrates this right in prosecutions for drug crimes and other crimes. A Centre County judge suppressed drug paraphernalia evidence because a Pennsylvania state trooper created exigent circumstances to justify the search.
Along with another state trooper, that trooper went to the defendant’s home to investigate a mother’s charge that her daughter was previously there while under the influence of methamphetamine and marijuana. The trooper admitted in court that he lacked probable cause to conduct the search in that home on Nov. 7, 2019.
Probable cause was lacking because the mother’s allegation was unsupported. The trooper claimed that they hoped to verify the mother’s charge by speaking to people at that location.
When state police knocked, the defendant’s father stepped outside. According to the state trooper, he was sweating and nervous. He said he was not the homeowner and would not consent to the search.
The trooper unsuccessfully tried to call the defendant who resided at that address. But he misrepresented the call and told the father that his son said that he knew what was inside the residence. The father told the trooper that he sometimes smoked marijuana inside the house with his son.
Acting under exigent circumstances, the trooper performed a protective sweep and stepped inside the house. He shouted for anyone to come out. The homeowner consented to a search.
The defendant was charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia resulting from this search.
The judge ruled that an unsubstantiated tip, followed by nervous behavior under questioning by multiple police officers days later, does not present exigent circumstances for a protective sweep. This would lead to police acting upon pranks or misinformation by intruding into a person’s home when they are dissatisfied with that person’s demeanor under questioning.
That trooper perjured himself in Centre County in 2018 in another case. He unconstitutionally detained and interrogated a suspect without any reliable information or reasonable suspicion of probable cause.
In another case that year, the judge suppressed evidence because that trooper conducted a custodial interrogation of a juvenile without providing Miranda warnings or without the juvenile’s parent present.
These cases show that an attorney can help protect rights. Lawyer may assure that illegally seized evidence is suppressed.