Email or Call (215) 564-0644

    Philadelphia Gun Possession Case – PA Supreme Court Held in Favor of Defendant (Commonwealth v. Cost, Jan. 22, 2020)

    A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court case from January 2020 revisits the issue of a detention and when officers are allowed to approach individuals on the street. In Commonwealth v. Cost, the court held that an investigative detention occurred when an officer asked for and obtained an individual’s ID card, ran a warrant check and then while still holding the ID, asked about the contents of the individual’s personal items. As a result, seizure of the individual’s gun was illegal.

    PA Criminal Law – What’s an Investigative Detention?
    When a police officer stops an individual on the street, the individual is always free to go, unless the officer has either reasonable suspicion or probable cause that the individual committed a crime. If the officer has reasonable suspicion, they may detain the individual to investigate. This is known as an investigative detention.

    In the Cost case, the defendant was approached by officers in an alleyway. Two plain clothes officers pulled up in an unmarked police car after seeing the defendant and others in an alley in a high crime area. After the defendant gave his ID, one of the officers conducted a warrant search. During this time, the other officer asked the defendant whether he had anything in his backpack. The defendant admitted he had a gun in his bag. He was then arrested and charged with various firearm/gun possession charges.

    At trial, the judge held in the defendant’s favor, finding that by asking what was in the defendant’s bag, the officer went beyond a mere encounter and had detained the defendant. Without reasonable suspicion that the defendant had committed a crime, the detention was unlawful.

    Criminal cases accepted in Philadelphia, Delaware, Chester, Lackawanna & Montgomery Counties. FREE CONSULTATIONS (215) 564-0644

    Holding Onto Your ID While Running a Warrants Check

    The critical issue in the Cost case was whether holding onto a person’s ID to search for outstanding warrants escalates a mere encounter into an investigative detention or seizure (which requires reasonable suspicion). The Cost court found that running a warrants check,

    “sends a strong signal to a reasonable person that the officer will not allow him to leave while the inquiry is in progress…However long the warrant check took, while it was under way it conveyed a message that [the defendant’s] liberty was being restrained.”

    However, the Cost case did not rule that holding an ID card while running a warrants check constitutes an investigative detention. Instead, the court zeroed in on the fact that the officer asked what was in the defendant’s backpack, while the warrant check was being done. As a result, the court ruled in favor of the defendant. Read more about criminal charges after police asks to see ID.


    David S. Nenner

    "Top Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer"


    Mr. Nenner's client was charged with multiple crimes (murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault, robbery, etc.) after a shooting death occurred at a gambling house in North Philadelphia. At trial, Mr. Nenner successfully presented a self-defense argument and convinced...


    Mr. Nenner’s client was charged with murder and gun charges in Philadelphia. The client was accused of shooting and killing another male on Arch Street near the 5600 block of Ithan Street in Philadelphia. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty after deliberating...

    Drug Possession Case – Motion to Suppress Granted

    Mr. Nenner presented evidence that to show that the traffic stop was a pretextual stop. The officer had no reason to pull the car over. The judge agreed and suppressed the evidence. As a result, the prosecution withdrew the charges.

    Attempted Murder Case – Not Guilty Jury Verdict

    Mr. Nenner presented a self-defense argument, and the jury returned a “not guilty” verdict after a 7 day trial in Philadelphia.

    3rd Degree Murder Case – Charges Dismissed for Co-Defendants

    Mr. Nenner represented co-defendants in a shooting death in North Philadelphia. Both cases were ultimately dismissed.

    Philadelphia Criminal Trials – Evidence Pointing to Another Perpetrator in Drug Possession or Drug Manufacture Cases

    In criminal trials in Philadelphia, one pretty common defense tactic is pointing the finger at another person at trial. This can raise enough doubt to result in a not guilty verdict by the judge or jury that the defendant was not the perpetrator of the crime. Here’s...

    Philadelphia Murder & Gun Possession Cases Increasing in 2021 – A Look at Common Charges & Defenses

    A look at PA criminal law for Murder (1st, 2nd, 3rd Degree), Aggravated Assault, Robbery, Possession of a Firearm, Carrying a Firearm Without a License, Carrying a Firearm in Philadelphia (misdemeanor).

    Pennsylvania Murder Charges, Deceased Person’s Statements Used to Prove Guilt

    Defense Trial Strategies – Excluding Statements That Accuse the Defendant Prosecutors often look to a deceased individual’s statements made prior to a murder to show that the defendant is guilty. These statements may point to a history of violence between the deceased...

    Pennsylvania (State) Drug Charges, Dog Sniffs & Constitutional Law

    Federal and Pennsylvania state courts treat narcotics dog searches differently. So different that the same scenario could result in different outcomes in federal versus state court. For example, a Philadelphia resident is pulled over for speeding. During the traffic...

    Dog Sniff Searches of Cars in Pennsylvania Traffic Stops (Federal Law)

    Dog or canine searches of cars during traffic stops in PA often lead to drug possession/dealing charges and gun charges. For example, a police officer pulls over a driver for speeding. During the traffic stop, a canine search is performed revealing several bags of...