Warrant Lacked Probable Cause – Kilo of Cocaine Evidence Suppressed

Client was driving his mini-van on Interstate 80 when he was stopped by a Pennsylvania State Trooper for illegal tint.  The trooper ran Client’s criminal record and noticed that Client had a prior felony drug conviction for cocaine possession.  The trooper removed Client from vehicle and requested consent to search.  Client consented.  A second trooper ran a drug dog around the vehicle, and the drug dog did not hit on any odors of drugs.  The troopers then conducted a thorough search of the vehicle.  One trooper found a welded box on the undercarriage of the van under the front passenger seat.  The vehicle was impounded, and the trooper obtained a search warrant for the box.  A search of the box to the discovery of approximately 550 grams of cocaine.

Client was charged with a felony offense of Possession With Intent to Deliver.  Client’s attorney filed a pretrial motion to suppress that was denied.  Client proceeded to trial, was convicted, and was sentenced to 5 ½ to 11 years in state prison.

Experienced Pennsylvania Appellate Attorney

Experienced Pennsylvania appellate attorney Jason S. Dunkle filed an appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court and argued the trooper’s search warrant lacked probable cause to believe that the welded box contained evidence of criminal activity.  In the paperwork seeking the search warrant, the trooper wrote that he believed that the box contained guns, drugs, or money based upon “his training and experience,” but the trooper did not reference what classes or certifications he completed to have such knowledge.  The trooper also didn’t reference prior cases in which he found evidence in similar boxes.  Basically, the trooper didn’t explain what training or experience he had that would show that why he had reason to believe that the welded box contained evidence of criminal activity. The trooper needed to write that he had handled prior cases and found drugs and guns in similar welded boxes. The Superior Court agreed with Attorney Dunkle and ruled that the warrant lacked sufficient probable cause. Becuase the warrant was invalid, all evidence found as a result of the unconstitutional search was suppressed. Without any evidence, the proseuctor dismissed the charges. Attorney Dunkle went through the expungement process to have the records of the incident destroyed.