Case Result – Unconstitutional Patdown Search for Weapons
Marijuana Charges Dismissed in Centre County
The client was at a large party with a live band in farm country in Centre County. The client had illegally parked in a farmer’s field while at the party, and the farmer called the Pennsylvania State Police to report the trespassing violation. As the client was walking towards his car, a state trooper stopped him and began to question him about where he was coming from and where he was going. It was a dark night, and the location was miles away from the small town of Rebersburg. Despite the cooperation of the client, the trooper subjected the client to a warrantless pat-down search for weapons. The search led to the discovery of a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The trooper filed a Police Criminal Complaint before a Centre County judge that charged the client with Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana, 35 P.S. 780-113(a)(31), and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, 35 P.S. 780-113(a)(32) .
At the preliminary hearing, experienced Centre County marijuana possession defense lawyer Jason S. Dunkle met with the Centre County Assistant District Attorney prosecuting the case and discussed the legality of the pat-down search. Attorney Dunkle cited to Pennsylvania precedential law and argued that a pat-down search is only justified if the officer had reason to believe that the suspect was “armed and dangerous.” In this case, the client admittedly parked illegally and there committed a minor criminal trespass, but the client had not done anything to cause the trooper to suspect that the client was either armed or dangerous. If the pat-down search violated the client’s constitutional rights, then the marijuana and paraphernalia that were found must be suppressed. If the evidence was suppressed, then the charges must be dismissed. The Centre County District Attorney agreed with the drug defense lawyer and conceded that the pat-down search violated the client’s constitutional rights, so the prosecution agreed to the dismissal of the Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana and Possession of Paraphernalia charges.