Failure to Raise the Legality of a Police Search Before Trial In Drug Cases
In Commonwealth v. Collazo, 440 Pa. Super. 13, 654 A.2d 1174 (Pa. Super. 1995), the defendant was found guilty of possession and delivery of a controlled substance in connection with a sale of heroin in a public park. Collazo, 654 A.2d at 1175.
Police saw Collazo drive to the park in a car, exit the car, meet the buyer, return to the car, open the glove compartment, return to the buyer, and hand him an object in exchange for money. Id.
Following Collazo's arrest, the police impounded his vehicle. Id.
Collazo told police that he owned the vehicle, but that it was registered in another person's name. Id.
When the police could not read the vehicle identification number (VIN), the police searched the car for the registration papers of the owner by looking in the glove compartment and found a packet of heroin with the same label as the heroin that had been sold in the park. Id.
The Court ruled that Collazo's claim regarding the legality of the search was waived because he failed to raise it before trial. 654 A.2d at 1176.
Despite this finding of waiver, the issue was addressed on the merits.
The Court concluded that the police had conducted a valid inventory search:
It is clear that the vehicle which had been operated by appellant was lawfully seized and impounded by police.
Under 75 Pa.C.S. 3352(c)(3), police could remove to a garage or place of safety any vehicle found after "the person driving or in control of the vehicle is arrested for an alleged offense for which the officer is required by law to take the person arrested before the issuing authority without unnecessary delay." 75 Pa.C.S. 3352(c)(3).