Centre County Judge Grine vacates order and grants suppression

On June 23, Judge Jonathan D. Grine of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas vacated his earlier Order which denied a defendant’s suppression motion. The earlier Order was based on the ruling that the defendant lacked standing to bring a Fourth Amendment claim. Judge Grine vacated the Order just weeks after it was issued.

Brock W. Breon was charged with drug-related offenses after a Spring Township Police Officer illegally searched his vehicle during a traffic stop. The officer removed Mr. Breon from the vehicle when he saw pill bottles inside the car. The officer searched the bottles, finding pills. Because Mr. Breon insisted that the bottles did not belong to him, Judge Grine held that that Mr. Breon lacked a possessory interest in the bottles that is required to bring a suppression claim under the Fourth Amendment.

However, nineteen days later, Judge Grine vacated his Order, holding instead that Mr. Breon’s abandonment of the pill bottles was the result of the illegal search of the defendant’s vehicle more generally. In other words, a defendant does not lack standing to bring a suppression claim simply because he or she disavows a possessory interest in containers inside a vehicle if such a statement is the result of the illegal search of the vehicle in the first place.

This opinion is a step in the right direction toward eliminating unjust traps that the legal system has set for defendants. The opinion stands for the proposition that the natural and simple words “that’s not mine” cannot be used to deny a defendant’s constitutional rights.

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