Outcome: As a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney, it is our experience that many cases can be won at the pre-trial stage when motions are filed and properly argued. In this case, a motion to quash was granted on multiple firearm possession charges in Philadelphia criminal court. All charges were dismissed on the eve of trial. Our client avoided at least 4 years of incarceration as he was charged with violation of the Uniform Firearms Act Section 6105 because he had a prior conviction that prohibited him from possessing a gun.
Facts: Our client, J.J. was a backseat passenger in a vehicle that was stopped by Philadelphia police for an alleged traffic violation. The front seat passenger and J.J. were removed from the car because the driver did not have his driver’s license. The police determined that the vehicle would be towed under the Philadelphia police Live Stop program. If you are operating your car without a valid license, registration or insurance, the police can seek to tow the car. Prior to the tow, the police can conduct an inventory search of the vehicle under a theory that they need to document any valuables that are in the vehicle so the police or tow company are not later accused of stealing the owner’s property.
Philadelphia Police Inventory Search Used as Pretext
But, more often than not a quick search is done and police come upon drugs, guns or other illegal contraband and the occupants are arrested. No inventory search is ever truly conducted but police use the Live Stop program as a way around the warrant requirement and to justify the unlawful search of an individual’s vehicle that they suspect may contain illegal contraband. They were never looking for the driver’s valuables, they were always looking for fruits of a crime. The alleged inventory search is simply a pretext to search the vehicle.
In this matter, police patted down J.J. and the front seat passenger and after finding nothing, police released them from the scene on foot. The driver had to remain for the inventory search and tow. Police claim that while searching the backseat area of the car, a plastic piece of the vehicle fell off and police observed three firearms inside this compartment. Police also found three pairs of black gloves. Based on the number of guns found and the discovery of the gloves, one officer went to find J.J. and the front seat passenger to arrest them for possession of the firearms. It was the Commonwealth’s theory that 3 guns, 3 sets of gloves, 3 occupants of the car meant that one gun belonged to each male.
Pre-Trial 600 Motion Released Client to House Arrest
When brought back to the scene and arrested, a full search of J.J. was conducted. Numerous packets of crack cocaine were found in his sock. Based on the discovery of the guns and drugs, J.J. was charged with multiple firearm offenses, including being a prior convict in possession of a firearm as well as drug possession charges for the crack cocaine found on his person. If convicted of the firearm offenses, J.J. was facing a minimum of 4 years of state incarceration based on his prior record. J.J.’s bail was set too high for his family to pay. Therefore, J.J. remained incarcerated for over 6 months waiting for his case to go to trial. After being in jail for 6 months, Brian Fishman successfully litigated a pre-trial 600 motion to have J.J. released on house arrest with an electronic monitor so J.J. could fight the case from the street.
Mere Presence at Crime Scene Not Enough to Convict
Mr. Fishman reviewed the notes of testimony from the preliminary hearing and felt there was simply not enough evidence for any reasonable juror to convict J.J. of the firearm charges as he was merely a passenger in the car, the guns were in a secreted or hidden location and he was not observed by police making any movements to that area of the car when police initiated the stop. Therefore, Mr. Fishman filed a Motion to Quash seeking to have the firearm charges dismissed prior to trial as no reasonable juror could legally convict J.J. of the gun offenses based on the undisputed facts.
The court agreed, granted the Motion to Quash and dismissed all charges. In the prosecution’s haste to determine whether they should appeal the decision, they simply forgot about the drug charges. Ultimately the prosecution did not appeal the judge’s ruling and never moved forward on the drug possession charges. Therefore, all charges were dismissed without the need to even go to trial. If you have been arrested for gun possession or drug possession in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties, contact Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Brian M. Fishman for a free consultation regarding your rights.