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Suppression Motions: seizure

One of the primary issues in Suppression Motions is whether the police action against the defendant constitutes a seizure.  If a seizure occurs, then a court should grant a defendant's suppression motion and exclude evidence seized by the police.  The threshold issue for this Court to determine is whether the encounter rose to the level of a seizure. A seizure has legally occurred when an officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has restrained the liberty of an individual. Id at 623. "To decide whether a seizure has occurred, a court must consider all the circumstances surrounding the encounter to determine whether the police conduct would have communicated to a reasonable person that the person was not free to decline the officers' requests or otherwise terminate the encounter. Stated differently, we ask whether a reasonable person, innocent of any crime, would have thought he was being restrained if he had been in the defendant's shoes." Important circumstances to consider include, but are not limited to, the following: the number of officers present during the interaction;  Miranda Rights whether the officer informs the citizen they are suspected of criminal activity; the officer's demeanor and tone of voice; the location and timing of the interaction; the visible presence of weapons on the officer; and the questions asked.

In Commonwealth v. Lidge, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that a seizure did not occur where: two officers approached the defendant, in the Pittsburgh International Airport. After checking in for her commuter flight, Lidge took a seat in the center of the empty passenger waiting area. The two officers approached her, sat to one side of her, identified themselves, and inquired whether she would mind speaking to them. Lidge replied that she would not mind. The officers inquired about her route then asked to see her ticket, and she complied. Suppression MotionsWhen asked if she had any identification, Lidge responded that she did not and queried whether she had done anything wrong. The officers explained that she had not done anything wrong, but they were patrolling the airport and she matched the "drug courier profile," which inspired them to speak with her. They asked her if she would mind if they searched her bag and informed her she did not have to consent and the inquiry would end. She agreed to let them search her bag, and the officers found cocaine.

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