Philadelphia criminal appeals lawyer Lloyd Long discusses details surrounding the Pennsylvania’s Superior Court’s decision in the Rapak case. This was a Commonwealth appeal of an order suppressing evidence. The trial court held that the four corners of warrant at issue did not establish probable cause.
The Superior Court reversed. The affidavit contained sufficient allegations to support a finding of probable cause: specifically, marijuana plants were located in a difficult to access location bordering Rapak’s property and a business: a dirt road led from his residence to the plants. The marijuana plants were cared for regularly, and traps to prevent animals were present. Rapak had also been convicted of a drug offense many years prior.
The lower court focused on whether the owner of the property was likely growing the plants. This was error; the question is not whether the owner of a property is suspected of a crime. The proper inquiry is whether there is probable cause to believe that specific items to be searched for and seized are on the property. The plants were obviously near the property and a nearby dirt road led to Rapak’s house. Under these circumstances, it was error to determine that that probable cause did not exist to search Rapak’s property. There was sufficient indicia to conclude that there was contraband for the manufacture and delivery of marijuana elsewhere on the property and in the home.