Commonwealth v. Haslam, 2016 PA Super 97

Posted in Admission of Evidence,PA Superior Court Cases,Pretrial Motions,Search & Seizure,Suppression Motions on May 9, 2016

 

Haslam was convicted of various charges for dealing drugs. His appeal challenged the lower court’s denial of his motion to suppress.

Parole agents went to the home to speak with Haslam’s parolee father about neighborhood complaints concerning the property. The complaints were about traffic to the house and suspicion of guns and drugs inside.

Agents knocked at the door for about 20 minutes before Haslam’s girlfriend answered while he stood behind her. Based on the conditions of parole governing his father (permitting periodic visits and warrantless searches), agents asked Haslam and his girlfriend to sit at the kitchen table while they secured the premises.

The couple denied that anyone else was present, but shortly thereafter, three people came downstairs (two regrettably encountered the parole agents while wanted for their own parole violations). One agent found drug paraphernalia and a gun. State troopers were called; one advised Haslam that he was free to leave while a search warrant was obtained. Haslam told the trooper that the drugs in the house belonged to him, not his girlfriend. He also consented to a search of his person that uncovered $700 in cash. Execution of the search warrant revealed more drugs and money.

The testimony of Haslam and his girlfriend was consistent with much of that by law enforcement, but certain key factual issues were disputed. His claims on appeal relied on his version of those disputes. That required an impossible reading of the record under the correct standard of review. In denying suppression, the lower court decided the agents were credible, and that Haslam and his girlfriend were not. Those determinations were supported by the record and binding on appeal. The panel held that the Haslam’s arguments were based on improper factual premises and did not review them.

President Judge Emeritus Stevens’ opinion can be found here.