A Washington County judge that once presided over the county's Drug Court program was charged with theft and possession of cocaine. It is alleged that the judge had requested that the police leave drug evidence in his chambers, and the police believe that the judge was stealing the cocaine and, at times, replacing it with baking soda. The police conducted a search of the judge's chambers, and drugs and other evidence were found that the prosecution intends to use at the judge's upcoming drug possession trial. The former judge hired prominent Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer Robert DelGreco, and Attorney DelGreco filed a motion to suppress the evidence because the police had not obtained a search warrant for the judge's chambers but instead were searching pursuant to an administrative order issued by the President Judge of the county.
Pennsylvania State troopers from the Rockview Barracks in Centre County recently stopped a rented van from Michigan after the driver failed to use a turn signal when switching lanes. During the traffic stop, the police asked the driver if the police could search the van, and the driver consented. The troopers removed two Christmas gifts and a piece of luggage from the van. A drug-sniffing dog was brought to the scene and alerted to the Christmas packages, meaning it was suspected that the packages contained drugs. The packages were then opened, and the troopers found approximately 20 pounds of marijuana. The man was arrested, taken before a Centre County judge for a Preliminary Arraignment on charges of Possession With Intent to Deliver Marijuana in violation of 35 P.S. 780-113(a)(30).
Over my many years as a criminal defense lawyer, I have found that I do not always agree with a judge's decision; but the law is what the judge says it is, and people must comply with the court orders. The rules also apply to everyone, both normal people and lawyers, both defense lawyers and prosecutors. A Pennsylvania court recently reiterated that even a prosecutor must follow a court order issued by a judge, and the failure to follow an order can result in severe penalties. The prosecutor is lucky that the judge did not impose a fine or even a sentence of incarceration for contempt of court. Many people that violate a court order, such as people that violate a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order, are sentenced to serve time in jail.
The Pennsylvania State Police routinely stop people that are traveling on interstate 80 for various traffic violations, such as speeding, driving in the left lane, or failure to use a turn signal. In some of those traffic stops, the police discover evidence of drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia. In a recent Centre County case, the police stopped a man for speeding during the early afternoon, and the trooper claimed that the man was visibly shaking and that the car smelled strongly of perfume.
In what is a somewhat routine fact pattern in Centre County, a traveler on interstate 80 was stopped for a relatively minor traffic violation but a search of the person's vehicle ultimately led to the discovery of drugs. In this particular case, the Pennsylvania State troopers stopped a man for speeding and decided to only issue a warning. In what has become routine in these cases, the troopers had the man exit his vehicle and walk to the back of the car so the officer could explain the warning. After issuing the warning and telling the man that he was free to leave, the police immediately started to question the man about his travel plans, and the trooper questioned the man as to whether or not he had previously been arrested or was currently trafficking drugs. The man denied that he had a prior criminal record and also denied that he was transporting controlled substances. The trooper then asked for consent to search the car, and the man responded "if you want to." The troopers searched the car and found approximately 12 pounds of marijuana. The man was arrested and charged with a felony charge of Possession With Intent to Deliver Marijuana, 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(30), Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(32), and misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana, 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(16).