Evidence suppression motion by criminal defendant in gun possession case is denied by judge

By Jon Campisi | Jan 11, 2012

A suppression motion by a Philadelphia man who had been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm has been denied by a federal judge.

A suppression motion by a Philadelphia man who had been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm has been denied by a federal judge.

U.S. District Court Judge Gene E.K. Pratter, sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled Jan. 4 that the case against Kendall Price could proceed.

Price was indicted early last year with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

The charge stemmed from a March 4, 2011 incident in which undercover Philadelphia narcotics officers observed what they believed to be a drug transaction between Price and a known drug dealer in the parking lot of a city fast food restaurant.

Following his arrest, Price argued that the officers’ seizure of the gun and ammunition violated Price’s Fourth Amendment rights, and he subsequently filed a motion to suppress the evidence in the case.

In his ruling, Pratter wrote that the officers did not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, and that their seizure of Price’s gun and ammunition was legitimate under the circumstances.

“In his quest to suppress the evidence of his alleged crime, i.e. the gun, Mr. Price labors mightily to parse the fast-moving events into artificial snap shot scenes in bits of time, as if by doing so he can change the outcome of the whole drama overall. He cannot,” Pratter wrote.

“The simple scenario described by the credible and consistent testimony of the officers of the events of March 4, 2011 demonstrate that the officers saw Mr. Price engage in conduct of which, by reason of the location, the other participant, the reputation of the general locale, and the actual actions of Mr. Price, the officers were wary as possible illegal drug transactions.”

According to background information on the case in the judge’s ruling, the two officers had observed Price enter the parking lot of the fast food restaurant, briefly interact with a man in another car, and then attempt to leave without ever entering the restaurant.

The officers, who were initially on stakeout for another case, became concerned when they saw Price walking back to his car with what appeared to be a bulge in his waistband.

After they approached Price’s car, with Price inside, the defendant admitted to the officers that he was in possession of a firearm.

It was at this point that the two narcotics officers confiscated the gun, discovered Price to be in possession of a small amount of narcotics, and subsequently arrested Price and transported him to the local police station for booking.

In his motion to suppress the evidence against him, Price argued that the search of his person and vehicle violated his constitutional rights.

The judge ruled otherwise given the circumstances surrounding Price’s arrest.

“The Court concludes that [the officers] … given their general law enforcement experience, had reasonable suspicions on the basis of which they could detain Mr. Price and then seize his firearm,” Pratter wrote.

“Indeed, once Mr. Price reached toward his waist – especially given, but not only because of, his statement to the officers that he had a gun – the officers were entirely authorized under [established law] to seize the gun to remove the danger and risk of physical harm to themselves and to the fast food restaurant patrons without first frisking Mr. Price.”

The judge also wrote that the officers had sufficient probable cause to proceed as they did, given the fact that they witnessed Price engage in what was believed to be a drug transaction in a high-crime area known for narcotics activity.

“Given these circumstances, practical common sense law enforcement decision-making allows for these officers to conclude they had probable cause to believe that some crime was afoot and that it involved Mr. Price. Thus, the Court concludes that [the officers] were well within constitutional boundaries when they seized the gun from Mr. Price and then proceeded to arrest him.”

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