Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York gun possession case, holding that the lower court improperly denied the defendant’s motion on the basis that he did not have standing to suppress the gun. The case also presented the issue of whether the lower court properly prevented the defendant from asking the arresting officer about a previous civil case that had settled.
What Is Standing?
Standing refers to a party’s ability to bring a claim or file a motion. In the context of New York search and seizure law, the prosecution will often argue that a defendant does not have standing to argue for suppression of an item because the item was discovered without infringing on the defendant’s constitutional rights.
A typical example of where a defendant may not have standing is when an object is in plain view. If an object is in plain view, a defendant does not have standing to argue that the motion should be suppressed because the defendant does not have a privacy interest in something that is readily visible by the public.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was arrested and charged with the possession of a firearm after two police officers recovered the weapon “immediately after it fell from the defendant’s person.” The defendant filed a motion to suppress the gun, arguing that the officer’s stop of the defendant violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The court denied the motion, finding that because the weapon was recovered from the ground, the defendant had no standing to seek its suppression. The case then proceeded to trial.
During the trial, the judge prevented the defendant from cross-examining one of the two arresting officers about a civil case alleging the officer “approached and assaulted the plaintiff in that case without any basis for suspecting him of posing a danger and filed baseless criminal charges against him.” The defendant was convicted and sentenced to 16 years to life.
On appeal, the defendant argued that his motion was improperly denied and that he was entitled to a new trial because the judge improperly limited his ability to cross-examine the police officer. The court reversed the lower court’s decision to deny the defendant’s motion solely on the basis that he lacked standing. The court noted that the trial court did not rule on whether the officers’ possessed reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop the defendant, which may have been an alternate basis for the court’s holding. Implicit in the court’s holding is the acknowledgment that the police officers were not credible in their recollection of the timing leading up to the recovery of the gun.
Additionally, the court determined that the trial court improperly limited the defendant’s ability to cross-examine the police officer regarding the settled civil case. Specifically, the court found that there was no cited reason to deny the defendant the opportunity, and that such a denial was harmful to his case, where the evidence of his guilt was not overwhelming.
Have You Been Arrested for a New York Crime?
If you or a loved one has recently been arrested for a New York gun crime, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem &Associates, we stand up for the rights of those facing serious crimes and help them defend their freedom against the allegations they face. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.