Commonwealth v. Wells
16 A.2d 1192
Decided: January 31, 2007
∑ The Superior Court upheld a lower courtís denial of a suppression motion because the officers who arrested a drug dealer had probable cause to make the arrest.
On May 28, 2003, an officer started to conduct surveillance in a neighborhood based on several complaints of illegal drug sales. While the officer was conducting surveillance, she saw a woman approach several men standing on a street corner, one of which was Wells. The woman talked to Wells, gave him money and Wells took something from his pocket and gave it to the woman. The woman was stopped a block away by another officer and a bag of crack cocaine was seized from the woman.
After the first woman left, a man approached Wells and after the man talked to Wells, Wells looked at the officer and started to walk away from the corner. The officer radioed other officers to stop Wells, who started to run from the officers. As he ran, he dropped his bookbag and jacket. After the officers caught Wells and arrested him, they found several small bags of crack cocaine in his clothing. The officers also found a loaded .357 handgun in his bookbag and several empty plastic bags similar to those filled with the crack cocaine.
At trial, Wells moved to suppress the evidence claiming that his arrest was not supported by probable cause. The motion was denied and he was convicted of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and violations of the Uniform Firearms Act. Wells appealed to the Superior Court.
On appeal, the Superior Court stated that the totality of the circumstances must be examined when determining whether the officers had probable cause to make an arrest. The Court then looked at several factors to determine whether the officers had probable cause to arrest Wells. The factors were: (1) professional experience of police officer in interpreting actions of drug dealers; (2) officerís knowledge of drug trafficking in the area; and (3) the movements and manners of the parties to the transaction.
Based on these three factors, the Superior Court held that the officers had probable cause to arrest Wells. The officer conducting the surveillance was a trained officer who was 20-25 feet away from the parties during the transaction and she had experience dealing with drug dealers in the past. The officers were conducting surveillance based on complaints of drug sales in the area. Finally, the parties quickly fled the scene after they realized that they were being watch by the officers. When the Court looked at all of these factors together, they held that the officers did have probable cause to make the arrest.