This is an appeal from a judgment of sentence entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, sentencing the appellant to an eighteen (18) month to five (5) year term of incarceration following his conviction on the charge of possession with intent to deliver or manufacture a controlled substance and a six (6) to twelve (12) month term of incarceration on the charge of delivery of, possession with intent to deliver, or manufacture with the intent to deliver, drug paraphernalia.
The facts as developed at trial are as follows. On May 22, 1986, State Trooper James D. Caccimelio observed the appellant operating a blue Chevrolet sedan on Interstate 95. The officer testified that he clocked the appellant travelling at a rate of 79 mph in the 55 mph zone; accordingly, he stopped the vehicle and asked for the appellant's driver's license and registration. When the appellant was unable to provide the foregoing documentation, Officer Caccimelio requested additional identification, whereupon the appellant removed a clear plastic bag containing a smaller bag filled with a white substances from the right breast pocket of his shirt. The officer testified that he "suspected it was a controlled substance of some sort." (N.T. 12/1/86 at p. 14.) He thereafter demanded to see the bag which the appellant had by that time returned to his pocket. In response to the trooper's request, the appellant produced a white opaque
(N.T. 12/1/86 at p. 16.)
Suspecting that the substance was methamphetamine, Officer Caccimelio directed the appellant to step out of the vehicle. He then led him to the rear of said vehicle, applied handcuffs and reached into the appellant's right front pants pocket; this search revealed an additional plastic bag containing a white substance. Miranda warnings were subsequently administered, whereupon Officer Caccimelio placed the appellant in his vehicle and proceeded to conduct a search of the Chevrolet sedan. He testified that during the course of this search, he detected a "chemical-type smell."
(N.T. 12/1/86 at p. 33.)
The contents of the trunk were admitted into evidence at the jury trial, which commenced on December 2, 1986.
The following issues have been raised on appeal:
After a thorough review of the record and controlling authority, we affirm.
In United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 102 S.Ct. 2157, 72 L.Ed.2d 572 (1982), the Supreme Court of the United States held that, "If probable cause justifies the search of a lawfully stopped vehicle, it justifies the search of every part of the vehicle and its contents that may conceal the object of the search." Id. at 825, 102 S.Ct. at 2173, 72 L.Ed.2d at 594. The Ross court was presented with a situation in which police had probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle. A search of the trunk compartment yielded a closed paper bag which, when opened, revealed glassine bags containing a substance later determined to be heroin. An additional search disclosed a zippered red leather pouch containing currency. The driver of the vehicle was charged with violating 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) [21 USCS § 841(a)], and the contents of both the paper bag and the pouch were submitted into evidence at trial. The defendant was convicted, but the conviction was reversed on appeal on the grounds that the warrantless search of the containers found within the trunk was invalid.
456 U.S. at 824, 102 S.Ct. at 2172, 72 L.Ed.2d at 593 (emphasis added).
It follows from the foregoing that if a police officer possesses probable cause to search a motor vehicle, he may then conduct a search of the trunk compartment without seeking to obtain probable cause relative to the particularized area.
Appellant herein challenges the applicability of Ross to the case sub judice. He cites Commonwealth v. Long, 489 Pa. 369, 414 A.2d 113 (1980)
Applying this standard to the facts at bar, it is clear that Officer Caccimelio had probable cause to search the trunk of the appellant's vehicle. The appellant was initially stopped for a traffic violation. The validity of this stop is not at issue. Officer Caccimelio first noticed what he suspected to be methamphetamine when the appellant removed a bag containing a white substance from his shirt pocket. He also detected a "chemical-type smell" during the course of his conversation with the appellant. This eventally led to a search of the Chevrolet sedan, during the course of which the trooper detected a "chemical-type smell." Based upon these observations, Officer Caccimelio searched the trunk of the appellant's car and uncovered the paraphernalia described above.
Under examination by the prosecution, the trooper testified with respect to his background and his competency in identifying narcotics. He had been a police officer in State College prior to joining the State Police force, a position which required twelve weeks of training at the State Police Academy in Hershey. Part of this training included some classroom experience with narcotics. As Officer Caccimelio stated, "There were several days devoted to training with controlled substances." (N.T. 12/1/86 at p. 30). During these sessions, the trooper was instructed in the identification of various controlled substances. He testified that methamphetamine could be a powdery or chunky substance and that, while it could be white, it did not necessarily have to be that color. He further testified that, while he did not believe that he was shown any examples of the substance, he was instructed in the packaging thereof and advised that both cocaine and heroin had a similar appearance. Officer Caccimelio noted that he had
Id., 340 Pa.Superior Ct. at 570-571, 490 A.2d at 927.
Accordingly, we hold that Officer Caccimelio was justified in believing that contraband was located in the appellant's vehicle, and this belief constituted valid probable cause for the search of the trunk compartment under the Ross rationale.
The same result is required under Pennsylvania law. In Commonwealth v. Shaffer, 447 Pa. 91, 288 A.2d 727 (1972), cert. denied 409 U.S. 867, 93 S.Ct. 164, 34 L.Ed.2d 116, our Supreme Court discussed various automobile exceptions to the warrant requirement, and observed:
Id., 447 Pa. at 104, 288 A.2d at 735 (quoting Commonwealth v. Lewis, 442 Pa. 98, 101, 275 A.2d 51, 52 (1971) (emphasis added). Officer Caccimelio clearly had a "basis for believing that evidence of a crime [was] concealed
Even if we were to conclude that the Ross rationale did not represent the standard of law in this Commonwealth, the search of appellant's trunk would still pass constitutional muster. As noted in Shaffer, supra, if there is probable cause to believe that the occupants of the vehicle had committed a felony, a warrantless search is permissible. In Commonwealth v. Long, supra, the court held that this particular exception was inapplicable in the circumstances at bar, since the vehicle which had been searched contained more than one occupant and there was probable cause to believe that only one of those occupants had been involved in criminal activity. The court observed that, "The Commonwealth's argument incorrectly presumes that if one occupant is engaged in a felonious act, here possession of contraband, then all occupants including the driver may also be viewed as participants in that felonious act." Long, supra, 489 Pa. at 374, 414 A.2d at 115. In the case sub judice, the appellant was the only occupant of the vehicle in question, and Officer Caccimelio had probable cause to believe that he was in possession of a controlled substance. This being so, Long is distinguishable on its facts and does not control in this instance.
Appellant also contends that the lower court erred in permitting the contents of the locked trunk to be admitted into evidence under the search incident to arrest exception. This is an erroneous assumption. As the court clearly stated in an opinion filed on November 13, 1987, "Turning to the search of the trunk of Defendant's vehicle, our review of the facts reveals that Trooper Caccimelio had probable cause to believe that this vehicle contained contraband. In light of this probable cause, the search of the trunk comes within the `automobile' exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. (Lower Court Opinion at 7) (emphasis supplied). Accordingly, this claim is without merit.
Judgment of sentence affirmed.
DEL SOLE, J., concurs in the result.