Commonwealth v. Thomas
2006 PA Super 286, ____ A.2d ____
Decided: October 12, 2006
The Superior Court held that police had probable cause to arrest appellant based upon the information provided by a confidential informant.
Police initially took custody of appellant based on anonymous tips that a young black male with medium to short dreadlocks was selling drugs at the train station in Berwyn, Chester County. During a stake out at the station, police observed appellant, who fit the physical description of the tip, get into a pick up truck with another male.
The officers later saw the truck parked at a K-mart store where they observed both appellant and the male driver exit together. The driver got back into the truck and drove away, while appellant began walking away on foot. The truck driver was pulled over for an equipment violation, during which time the officers questioned him about appellant. The truck driver admitted that he had just bought drugs from appellant in the men’s room of the K-mart store, and that he had made similar purchases from him in the past.
The truck driver agreed to act as a confidential informant for the police and arranged another sale to take place later that day. When the truck driver learned that the appellant may be armed, however, he declined to complete an actual purchase. Instead, he visually identified appellant as the seller to the police officers. Police then arrested the appellant based on the confidential informant’s identification.
Prior to trial, appellant filed a motion to suppress the evidence against him arguing that the police lacked probable cause to stop, search and arrest him without a warrant. The trial court denied this motion and convicted appellant of Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession with Intent to Deliver, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
On appeal to the Superior Court, appellant argued that the trial court erred in its decision. However, appellant failed to analyze or refer to case law in support of his position. Therefore, the Court deemed his challenge concerning his claim that the police lacked probable cause to institute a warrantless arrest to be waived. "It is not this Court’s function or duty to become an advocate for the appellants…It is the appellant who has the burden of establishing his entitlement to relief by showing that the ruling of the trial court is erroneous."
In addition, the Superior Court held that, even if appellant properly preserved his claim, he still would not have been entitled to relief. The Court found that the police did have probable cause to perform a warrantless arrest based on the information provided to them by the confidential informant. The Court cited to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Commonwealth v. Luv, where the court stated that information received from confidential informants may constitute probable cause where police independently corroborate a tip or where the informant himself participated in the criminal activity. Luv, 557 Pa. 570 (Pa. 1999).