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State court upholds judge’s denial of motion in traffic-stop case

Woman who was arrested for having pot in car says search of vehicle was not voluntary.

WILKES-BARRE – The state Superior Court has upheld a judge’s denial of a motion to suppress drug evidence obtained during a traffic stop.

An attorney for Billy Jo McDermott, 33, of Wilkes-Barre, had argued a small amount of marijuana that was discovered in her vehicle should have been excluded as evidence because consent she had given to search her vehicle was not voluntary.

McDermott was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia in September 2005. She was convicted of the charges at a non-jury trial before Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. on March 22, 2006, and sentenced to six months probation.

According to an arrest affidavit, Kingston police officer Ian Urbanski had stopped McDermott’s vehicle after observing an unrestrained child in a rear seat. While speaking with McDermott, Urbanski noticed crumpled up dollar bills in the ashtray, which Urbanski said he knew to be commonly used to transport narcotics, according to the affidavit.

Urbanski issued McDermott a traffic citation and advised her she was free to leave. He then asked her if he could search her vehicle and she consented. Urbanski then found marijuana inside two of the crumpled-up bills, the affidavit says.

McDermott’s attorney, Al Flora Jr. of the county’s public defender’s office, had argued the evidence should be suppressed because McDermott’s consent to search the vehicle came after she was illegally detained.

Assistant District Attorney Frank Barletta, who handled the appeal, argued the search was legal because McDermott agreed to the search after she was advised she was free to leave. Olszewski denied the motion to suppress the evidence.

McDermott appealed to the Superior Court, which on Jan. 11 upheld the judge’s ruling.

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