Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York DWI case involving the question of whether the arresting officer had the legal authority to approach the defendant’s parked car and knock on the window. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer possessed the authority to do so. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress and affirmed his convictions.
According to the court’s written opinion, a police officer was on routine patrol when he saw the defendant pull into an empty parking lot shortly after midnight. At the time, no businesses nearby were open. About 20 minutes later, the officer drove by the parking lot again, and he noticed that the defendant’s car was still parked in the lot, running with its lights on. The officer approached the defendant’s vehicle to see the defendant slumped over the steering wheel. Ultimately, the defendant was arrested for DUI and related offenses.
The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to approach his vehicle, as there was no indication that he was involved in any criminal activity. Indeed, the police officer testified at the motion that he was “unsure” what he would find when he approached the vehicle, and did not think that “criminal activity was afoot.”