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Charges dropped in case of half-naked suspect

A court said Ahmad Bebee's Fourth Amendment rights were violated when police entered his hotel room without a warrant.

BY LAURIE MASON
COURIER TIMES

With its case essentially stripped, prosecutors Monday had no choice but to drop the charges against an accused drug dealer who was literally caught with his pants down.

Ahmad Bebee, 30, of Philadelphia was sentenced in January 2005 to five to 10 years in a state prison on charges of dealing cocaine. Police responding in July 2004 to an anonymous tip of a man with an underage girl discovered Bebee inside a room of the Neshaminy Motor Inn.

When police announced their arrival with a knock, Bebee answered his door wearing nothing but a T-shirt. Police told him to put on some clothes and entered the room, without a search warrant.

That's when they said they saw the 60 grams of cocaine - worth more than $6,000 on the street - near the bed.

A 16-year-old girl was with Bebee, but he was not charged with any sex offenses.

Bebee appealed his drug conviction to the state Superior Court, claiming that his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated when police ordered him to get dressed, and that his subsequent detention was improper because it was not supported by a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

The court agreed, relying on prior cases in which police did not have sufficient corroborating information to search a subject after an anonymous tip, such as "inside information," that a crime was taking place.

"Contrary to the trial court's position, none of the investigating officers observed any suspicious behavior on Appellant's part before initiating the investigative detention," the state court wrote.

"Moreover, that fact that Appellant was half-naked when he first opened the door was not, as the trial court suggests, indicative of criminal activity; people often remove their clothes inside of motel rooms."

The Superior Court suppressed the drug evidence and ordered Bebee retried. Bucks County prosecutors appealed to the state Supreme Court, which last week refused to hear the case.

During a brief hearing Monday in county court in Doylestown, the charges were dropped and Bebee was released from jail. Bebee's attorney, Michael Parlow, said the case showed that police should not rush into an arrest.

"The officers didn't see him doing anything illegal, they just saw a man naked from the waist down. The court has said that doesn't rise to the level of reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring."

Parlow said Bebee is relieved to be able to return home to his wife and children.

"This has been a humbling experience for him."

Reprinted with permission from Bucks County Courier Times

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