In many New York criminal cases, law enforcement officers need to search for evidence. The United States Constitution protects individuals from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” As such, in most cases, law enforcement must obtain a search warrant based on probable cause before beginning their search. Despite these protections, the law provides police with significant discretionary power when investigating a criminal incident. Criminal defendants may successfully challenge a search if they can establish that police engaged in the search without a valid warrant or probable cause. However, exceptions to the search warrant rule apply in various situations, such as when the search or seizure is incident to a valid arrest.
For example, recently, the Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling denying a New York defendant’s motion to suppress. The case arose when law enforcement obtained a search warrant to search the defendant’s home. During the search, police recovered several items, including a handgun and ammunition. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, claiming that the warrant was invalid.
In New York, if an officer wants to obtain a search warrant, they must present the basis for the probable cause of their search to a judge. In most cases, a judge will issue a warrant if the probable cause exhibits a reasonable basis for believing that evidence from a crime is in the location they want to search. Officers must submit a sworn statement and describe the location with particularity. Judges typically consider the totality of the circumstances before issuing a search warrant.