Warrantless Search When Defendant Showed No Privacy In Placing the Drug Bag In a Tree
Based on an Anonymous Tip and Surveillance was Warrantless Search and Seizure Proper as the Defendant Showed No Privacy in Placing the Drug Bag in a Tree ?
In Commonwealth v. Johnson, 431 Pa. Super. 291, 636 A.2d 656, 658 (Pa. Super. 1994), the police received an anonymous tip that a black male wearing a red baseball cap was selling drugs in a neighborhood park.
The police set up surveillance of the park and watched as a male individual approached a man fitting the description from the anonymous tip.
Both men then walked about ten to twelve feet into the park.
At that point, the man in the red hat reached into a tree and pulled down a brown plastic bag.
He then allowed his prospective "customer" to look into the bag.
The men conversed for a moment, then the bag was returned to its perch in the tree.
The men proceeded to part and go separate ways, the one in the red hat returning to his original post in the park.
Police officers conducting the surveillance then entered the park.
One officer secured the man in the red hat while another checked the bag in the tree.
The second officer then signaled the first that he had found drugs in the bag.
The hatted man was charged with possession with the intent to deliver and sought to suppress the drugs found in the bag.
The trial court granted the suppression motion and the Commonwealth appealed.
A panel of this Court reversed, holding that the warrantless search and seizure were proper because the defendant "effectively abandoned any reasonable expectation of privacy in the bag" of drugs by placing it in the tree. Johnson, 636 A.2d at 659.