Do Reports of Criminal Activity Alone Constitute Probable Cause to Arrest ?
In Commonwealth v. DeWitt, 530 Pa. 299, 608 A.2d 1030 (Pa. 1992), the trial court granted the defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized during an investigatory stop.
The defendant was in a parked car with a group of individuals when the police approached them.
The police had previously received reports of criminal activity in the area, and the defendant was observed making furtive movements.
Though the defendant also attempted to flee upon approach by the police, the trial court concluded that the police lacked either probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant. See DeWitt, 608 A.2d at 1032.
The Commonwealth appealed, and this Court reversed. See Commonwealth v. DeWitt, 408 Pa. Super. 645, 588 A.2d 559 (Pa. Super. 1990) (unpublished memorandum).
The Court concluded that the circumstances preceding the stop demonstrated a basis for reasonable suspicion. See id.
The Supreme Court reversed, finding that our conclusion that the stop was legal was unsupported by the record. See DeWitt, 608 A.2d at 1034.
The Court stated that though:
The police had previous notice from the property owner of criminal behavior in the church parking lot, there was absolutely no evidence that the vehicle in question was engaged in the type of activity complained of. Additionally, this Court has held that flight, in and of itself, does not constitute probable cause to arrest.
We would be hard pressed to find that flight, in and of itself, constitutes reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.
Based upon the remaining facts, we find that there was insufficient evidence to make an investigative stop.
We hold, therefore, that the police did not have . . . reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct to justify the stop made in the instant case. Id.
Thus, in DeWitt our Supreme Court held that the combination of furtive movements, late time of night, previous reports of criminal activity in the area, even when accompanied by flight, do not establish an adequate basis for reasonable suspicion. Id.