PHILADELPHIA (March 17, 2022) – District Attorney Larry Krasner on Thursday announced the arrest and arraignment of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Levitt, for his role in an illegal car search that resulted in the arrest of a civilian with no prior criminal record for possession of a firearm without a license. This investigation stems from a Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs (IA) audit of questionable, and potentially illegal, officer searches and arrests for unlawful possession of firearms.
The Philadelphia Police Department confirmed the audit of gun possession arrests last December. Following an IA investigation, Officer Levitt (DOB: 10/06/1973), a resident of Bucks County, was arrested today for his role in the April 2021 stop and search of a vehicle that culminated in the seizure of a .9mm handgun and the arrest of an individual without legal justification for Violation of Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA).
For his role in the allegedly unlawful search and arrest conducted on April 28, 2021, Officer Levitt is charged with Unsworn Falsification to Authorities (M2) and Official Oppression (M2). On August 5, 2021, Officer Levitt testified falsely under oath at a preliminary hearing for the individual arrested and charged with VUFA; for that, Officer Levitt is charged with Perjury (F3).
The Commonwealth has since withdrawn all charges against the individual arrested by Officer Levitt.
“As we and our partners in law enforcement work tirelessly to confront the crisis of gun violence, we must be equally dedicated to earning the trust of the public we are sworn to protect. Today’s arrest of an officer who allegedly broke that trust is disturbing and sad, but it’s also a clear sign of Police Commissioner Outlaw‘s commitment to integrity,” DA Krasner said. “We also must acknowledge the severe harm inflicted on our neighbors, particularly those who are Black and brown and disproportionately impacted, when they are stopped and searched without legal justification or service to public safety.”
According to the Internal Affairs investigation, Officer Levitt along with two other officers from the 39th Police District stopped and questioned two individuals in a vehicle. The individuals were then asked to exit the vehicle, after which Officer Levitt entered and searched the van without a warrant or probable cause, according to investigators. Officer Levitt subsequently produced the firearm, claiming it had been sticking out of an open bag. The individual who the bag and gun belonged to was arrested and charged with VUFA 6106, or possession without a license. Information obtained during the course of the IA investigation, including Body Worn Camera footage, contradicted Levitt’s account.
DA Krasner added: “The District Attorney’s Office will continue to work with city and law enforcement partners toward our shared goals of solving more non-fatal and fatal shootings in order to get more actual shooters off the streets, as well as of reducing unnecessary and discriminatory pretextual vehicle stops. In addition to stop and frisk reforms being implemented due to City Council’s Driving Equality law, changing appeals court rulings on vehicle searches over the last couple of years are impacting gun possession cases, including in cases where the underlying search occurred prior to court rulings. As we outlined in our collaborative 100 Shooter Report, these decisions require us to vigorously review open cases arising from police searches of vehicles and to update training of officers on conducting legal searches that will result in stronger cases for my office to prosecute.”
From page 38 of the 100 Shooter Report:
“Three recent court rulings have also changed both the policing and prosecution of gun possession cases, making them more challenging: Commonwealth v. Hicks (2019) found that the police were not allowed to stop individuals merely because they possessed a concealed firearm and showed it to another person while police watched; Commonwealth v. Perfetto (2019) required that traffic cases and criminal cases stemming from those traffic cases must be tried together or risk the criminal case being dismissed; and Alexander v. Commonwealth (2020) required that the police seek a warrant to search a car during a car stop, rather than be allowed to search with mere suspicion of contraband. All three of these opinions apply retroactively and impact the growing backlog of active cases, and have resulted in a higher proportion of cases that have not resolved with a conviction. Responsive changes in police and prosecutor practice are needed and are being implemented in order to ensure cases are opened with evidence that will be admissible at trial.”
VUFA 6106 is a felony only in Philadelphia County. Firearm possession without a license is rarely prosecuted as a lead misdemeanor charge elsewhere in Pennsylvania. The consequential racial disparity in Pennsylvania VUFA 6106 arrests and prosecutions is also explored at length in the 100 Shooter Report.
CONTACT: Jane Roh, 215-686-8711, [email protected]
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million residents of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of approximately 40,000 criminal cases annually. Learn more about the DAO by visiting PhillyDA.org.