“Terry” Search Ruled Unlawful – Drug Charges Dismissed Against Erie Motorist
On April 21, 2010 at 2:00 in the morning, Millcreek Township police stopped a motorist who had pulled over on the side of the road to drop a friend off at the foot of his driveway. When police discovered that the driver was operating a loaner vehicle from a local car dealership, officers questioned the driver about whether he had permission to drive this particular vehicle. When it was determined that only the driver’s mother (and not the driver) had permission to drive the loaner vehicle, police required the driver to exit the vehicle. Another officer then “patted down” the driver to determine if he had any weapons which might compromise officer safety. The officer found no weapons but instead found a pipe believed to be used for smoking marijuana. The officers then searched the car and found more marijuana and paraphernalia, including a digital scale.
After obtaining testimony from one of the officers at a preliminary hearing, all of the drug charges were held for trial. Erie criminal defense lawyer Tim George then filed a suppression motion. At the suppression hearing, the defense did not contest the right of the officer to approach the vehicle or even to require the driver to exit the vehicle. The issue before the suppression court was whether the police were justified in conducting a “pat down,” or “Terry” search, without any facts tending to show that the driver was armed and dangerous.
After hearing testimony, including cross-examination by the defense, the Court agreed with Mr. George and granted our motion to suppress all evidence, including any statements and all physical evidence, including the marijuana pipe, drugs, and other paraphernalia found in the driver’s front pocket and throughout the loaner car. As a result, all charges were dropped.
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