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New York Court of Appeals Upholds Denial of Motion to Suppress Gun Evidence in Parole Violation Arrest Case

gun with bulletsIn a recent opinion from New York’s highest state court, the defendant was convicted of possessing a weapon in the second and third degrees as well as the unlawful possession of marijuana. Before the jury trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence of a firearm located in his vehicle. During the hearing on the motion, a detective testified about the circumstances surrounding the arrest of the defendant and the subsequent search that revealed the firearm. The detective stated that he and his partner received a warrant for the defendant’s arrest based on a number of parole violations. The detectives made several attempts to locate the defendant’s whereabouts, including an occasion on which they made contact with the defendant’s ex-girlfriend.

Later that day, the ex-girlfriend called the detectives to inform them that the defendant could be found in a specific location in his vehicle. The detectives arrived at the stated location, however, and the defendant was not there. Shortly thereafter, the ex-girlfriend called again in a panic, stating that the defendant had her son in his vehicle and that the defendant told her he had a firearm in the vehicle. The detectives returned to the previous location and confirmed the defendant’s parked and vacant vehicle, using the DMV records database and information that the ex-girlfriend provided. The detectives entered the defendant’s nearby apartment, where he was located with the ex-girlfriend’s son. After the defendant was arrested, the detectives searched the vehicle and located the firearm that the ex-girlfriend mentioned in a bag on the backseat of the vehicle.

The lower court denied the motion to suppress, stating that the parolee status and the tip from the ex-girlfriend regarding the gun provided sufficient support for the search. The appellate division affirmed, and the defendant again appealed to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state. The defendant argued that the search was unlawful pursuant to a prior case because the search was conducted purely as a result of the defendant’s status as a parolee and that such a search can only be performed by the defendant’s parole agent, rather than detectives.

The high court rejected this argument, first stating the well-established rule that a parolee’s constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures is not offended when his or her parole officer performs a search without a warrant, as long as the search is rationally related and reasonably connected to the parole officer’s responsibilities. When a police officer performs a search of a parolee, the same relaxation of constitutional search protections may not always apply, but the court noted that the suspect’s status as a parolee is always relevant to the police officer’s decision to detain or search a suspect and may, in fact, be critical. Accordingly, the high court affirmed the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of the firearm.

If you are facing a criminal charge or involved in a criminal investigation, it is critical that you take sufficient precautions to protect your rights and to ensure that you are navigating the process correctly. At Tilem & Associates, our dedicated team of New York criminal defense lawyers proudly provides seasoned legal counsel to residents throughout the area and handles a wide variety of matters, including gun crime cases, DWI, and motor vehicle-related incidents. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 877-377-8666 or contact us online to get started.

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