In 2014 a patron at a Gas-Station Convenience store in Pennsylvania was observed on CCTV showing a firearm to another patron before holstering it under his shirt. A phone call from a store employee and a few police officers later, the armed citizen was arrested on a Drug possession and a DUI charge (but no gun charge).
Concealed Carry PA has all the finer details, but I’ll synopsize.
The clerk claims he told the dispatcher the patron showed the firearm. Police officers, responding to the call claim they were told he brandished it. He was sitting in his car when police arrived. His valid carry permit cleared him of any potential gun charge. But suspicion based solely on the presence of a firearm leads to a frisk and a search that revealed a small amount of marijuana and the smell of alcohol on his breath.
One defendant with a clever lawyer, a few years (no idea how much money), and one State Supreme Court ruling later, and the ‘defendant’ is cleared of any charges that resulted from an illegal search based solely on the knowledge that he had a firearm.
“A cornerstone of modern law enforcement methods, “stop and frisk” is a practical tool designed to encourage the effective investigation and prevention of crime, while maintaining a balance between the constitutionally protected privacy interests of the individual and the needs and safety of law enforcement personnel. Only two conditions must be satisfied to validate the practice—one to justify the “stop,” and another to allow a “frisk.”
But Justice Wecht goes on to say that the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has been doing the exact opposite of what the Supreme Court of the US has laid down as a “bedrock rule.”
Citing Commonwealth v. Robinson, 600 A.2d 957 (Pa. Super. 1991), Justice Wecht details that the Pennsylvania Superior Court wrongly decided,
“… possession of a concealed firearm by an individual in public is sufficient to create a reasonable suspicion that the individual may be dangerous, such that an officer can approach the individual and briefly detain him in order to investigate whether the person is properly licensed.”
Not so much. The PA High Court rules that evidence of a concealed firearm, in this instance in possession of someone with a valid concealed carry permit, does not void his fourth amendment rights. Any evidence resulting from the illegitimate search that follows is inadmissible.