Appellate Court Sides with Defendant in New York Firearm Possession Case

Last month, an appellate court in New York ruled in favor of the defendant in a New York gun case involving the suppression of physical evidence. Originally, a police officer pulled the defendant over when he was driving, and the officer found a firearm on the defendant’s person. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the incriminating evidence found during the traffic stop, and the State of New York appealed. Ultimately, the higher court denied the State’s appeal, siding with the defendant instead.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, an officer was on patrol one evening when he saw the defendant driving nearby. He supposedly perceived the defendant to be going too fast and cross a double yellow line, so he activated his lights and pulled the defendant over. As the officer got out of his car and approached the defendant in his vehicle, he saw an empty firearm holder, marijuana, and a plastic bag with a powdery substance inside the car. The officer told the defendant to step outside and immediately found a firearm on the defendant’s person.

The defendant was charged with criminal possession of a firearm. He filed a motion asking the trial court to suppress the evidence of the firearm, arguing the officer did not actually have a legal reason to pull him over. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion, and the State appealed.

The Court’s Opinion

On appeal, the State argued that the officer was well within his rights to pull the defendant over for the traffic stop. The officer suspected that the defendant was speeding, and he was justified in taking action accordingly. Because the traffic stop was legal, then, the resulting evidence found was also admissible in court.

The appellate court disagreed. There was no evidence, said the court, that the officer in question had been trained in estimating the speed of a vehicle. The officer had not used any speed measuring device, and there was ultimately not enough justification for him to conduct the traffic stop. Given the lack of evidence that the defendant was speeding, the traffic stop was unreasonable, and the resulting evidence was rightfully suppressed.

Agreeing with the defendant, then, the court denied the State’s appeal and kept the trial court’s ruling in place. As a result, the prosecution will not be able to introduce evidence of the weapon against the defendant, meaning the most likely result is that the prosecution will withdraw the case.

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