PA Superior Court Reverses a York County Court Decision Upholding Our Right Against Unreasonable Search and Seizure

On November 20, 2012, a panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the Order of a York County Trial Court Judge that had suppressed evidence obtained by police in what the Trial Court determined was an illegal search. Police had been patrolling the area of Muddy Creek Road in Delta, Pennsylvania looking for a stolen van equipped with a "LoJack" type of GPS system. Police tracked the van to that area. Police noticed a "clearing" adjacent to Muddy Creek Road where there were several large trailers, but no van. The police drove down a small private drive to enter the clearing and look for the van. According to the police, the trailers looked uninhabited. There was a house about 150 yards away from the clearing. According to the owner of the property, a pathway connected the house to the clearing and there was a tattered, yellow "No Trespassing" sign posted on a tree in the clearing. While searching the clearing for the van, the police discovered tools that were allegedly stolen, but not the van.

In Court, the Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of a violation of his Constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure. The York County Trial Court granted the Defendant's suppression motion and precluded the alleged stolen tools from being admitted into evidence. The York County District Attorney appealed that decision prior to trial. Unfortunately, the PA Superior Court reversed the Trial Court decision by ruling the Defendant in this case, who is the son of the owner of the property, did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the clearing. The Defendant has filed a Petition for Re-argument. So, we may hear more about this case from the PA Superior Court. And, either way, this case may be taken up to the PA Supreme Court. This is an important case to watch as it impacts our right against unreasonable search and seizure that all of us hold dear.

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