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In the Interest of O.J. 2008 PA Super 234
Topic: Motor Vehicle Stop-Vehicle Search

Brief Legal Summary: If the driver or passenger of a vehicle makes furtive movements in a vehicle, the police may search the area where the movements were directed for their safety:

Case Summary: The police observed O.J.’s vehicle going 40mph in a 25 mph zone and failing to stop at a traffic light. After activating their lights and sirens, the officers gave chase. After O.J.’s vehicle stopped, the officers witnessed furtive movements around the area of the vehicle’s console. The officers removed O.J. and his passenger from the vehicle and patted them down for weapons. No weapons were recovered from their persons. After securing O.J. and his passenger in their patrol car, the police searched the center console and recovered a quantity of drugs. O.J. was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Defense counsel filed a motion to suppress. At the suppression hearing, the officer testified that the police “normally” search the area for weapons when they observe furtive movements due to a fear for their safety. The trial court ruled in favor of O.J. and suppressed the evidence. The Commonwealth appealed.

The Superior Court held that:

1. Where an officer observes furtive movements in a vehicle, s/he is justified in searching the area where the furtive movements are directed in the interest of officer safety