As we have discussed in the past often in New York criminal cases suppression of the evidence may be your best (or only defense. As has been widely reported in the media, all charges were recently dismissed against one of our clients after the Court granted our motion to controvert a search warrant and suppressed all of the evidence recovered during a search of our client’s house. While in can be difficult to have a motion to controvert a search warrant granted by the Court, recent case law makes it easier to file and win such a motion. When a motion to controvert a search warrant is granted, the Court is deciding that the search warrant was not valid and therefore the evidence obtained during the execution of the search warrant may not be used in Court.
Article 710 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law sets out the procedure to file a motion to suppress tangible evidence that is obtained as a result of an “unlawful search and seizure.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which covers New York State has established that a warrant must at a minimum have three components. One is that the warrant must identify the specific crime for which law enforcement has established probable cause. Then the warrant must particularly describe the places that are allowed to be searched and the things that may be seized with their relationship to the crime.
New York’s highest Court, the New York Court of Appeals has further refined New York’s warrant requirement. (See, People v. Brown, 96 NY2d 80). At a minimum the warrant must particularly describe the places to be searched and the things to be seized. The idea is to ensure that the police have no discretion in either the places to be searched or the things that are permitted to be seized. Exploratory warrants that give police the discretion to look around for evidence are unlawful. If either of those elements are lacking the warrant may be invalid and any evidence suppressed. This is true even though a Judge has signed and authorized the search warrant.