Apr 13

Commonwealth v. D.Y.

Commonwealth v. D.Y.

Philadelphia police officers received a radio call for a person with a gun on a Septa bus, saw the bus stopped at an intersection and boarded. They did not know the source of the information nor was there a description of the person with a gun. However, as soon as they stepped foot on the bus D.Y. and his cousin stood up and allegedly tried to exit. One of the officers ordered both of them to stop and then conducted a pat-down for weapons. A semi-automatic firearm was recovered off of D.Y.’s cousin and he was arrested. Police than “brought D.Y. off of the bus” and claimed that as they were processing his cousin, D.Y voluntarily told them that the gun was his and that he had handed it to his cousin just before encountering the officers. Based on this statement and the recovery of the firearm D.Y. was arrested because he did not have a license to carry. D.Y. was searched incident to his arrest and police recovered a receipt for the gun in D.Y.’s pocket. Prior to trial the defense filed a motion to suppress, arguing that D.Y. was subject to an illegal stop and that therefore the statements he made and the receipt for the gun should be suppressed. The DA argued that there was no illegal stop, just a “mere encounter” with police that did not require them to have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to detain or arrest. Furthermore, the DA argued that even if the initial stop was illegal D.Y. was not in custody at the time he made incriminating statements and that because he volunteered the information on his own the statements shouldn’t be suppressed. Therefore, the police had the right to arrest D.Y. and the recovery of the receipt for the gun was proper. A judge disagreed with the DA, instead adopting the defense argument that the initial encounter was illegal because it was based on an uncorroborated anonymous tip. Thus, the statements made and the gun receipt were deemed “fruit of the poisonous tree” and all evidence was suppressed. Although there was no way to suppress the gun because it was recovered off of his cousin, the DA was without any evidence that D.Y. was ever in possession of the gun and the Commonwealth was forced to withdraw the case against D.Y.

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