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Articles Posted in GUN CRIMES

An individual charged and convicted upon a guilty plea of a New York weapons offense recently appealed his conviction based on a constitutional violation of his rights. The accused argues that the trial court erred in failing to suppress evidence that his parole officer recovered during searching the man’s home. He argued that the search was precipitated on an uncorroborated anonymous tip. Moreover, he contended that the officers did not establish the tip’s source of knowledge or reliability.

According to the record, the appellant’s parole officer explained that he received a call through the Department of Probation that the appellant may have a firearm. The parole officer then searched the appellant’s residence and discovered a firearm wrapped in plastic underneath clothes in a closet. The court refused to review the appellant’s contention on appeal, reasoning that the accused did not raise it before the court. However, a dissenting judge explained that, in his view, the warrantless search was unlawful because it rested solely on an anonymous tip from an unidentified person.

New York is one of the few states that retain the Aguilar-Spinelli test to determine the validity of a warrantless arrest stemming from an anonymous tip or confidential informant. Under this test, law enforcement must provide the magistrate signing the warrant with reasons to support the finding that the informant is reliable and of some of the circumstances that the informant relied upon. Further, after arraignment, law enforcement must establish facts that show the anonymous tipster is reliable and credible and establish the circumstances relied upon by the tipster. Despite this test, there is limited guidance on when a confidential informant or anonymous tipster should be deemed “reliable.” Lower courts rarely find anonymous tipsters reliable in the absence of predictive information.

As we reported in our blog on March 31, 2021, we won a five year battle to get a New York gun charge dismissed based upon an illegal search.  State and federal law as well as the US Constitution provide that all citizens enjoy the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Historically, this meant that police officers needed to obtain a warrant before they conducted any type of search. However, the practicalities of life in the 20th century required the court to create specific exceptions to the warrant requirement. One of the most important exceptions to the general rule requiring a warrant pertains to New York traffic stops.

Over the years, courts have held that automobile stops present certain facts that make it impractical for law enforcement to obtain a warrant. For example, vehicles are mobile, may contain dangerous weapons, and occupants are obscured from police view. Thus, police officers do not need to get a warrant before searching a car in many cases. However, just because they don’t need a warrant doesn’t mean they can search a car for any reason.

Generally, police need to provide justification for any warrantless search. In the case of traffic stops, this requires the officer have probable cause to suspect that the driver or one of the vehicle’s occupants is involved in criminal conduct. Courts rely on several factors when assessing whether an officer had probable cause to search a car including, the occupants’ behavior, any immediately visible evidence of wrongdoing, and whether the traffic stop occurred in a “high crime” area.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York gun case involving what the prosecution called a valid inventory search. However, the court rejected the prosecution’s characterization of the police officers’ search of the defendant’s vehicle as an inventory search, suppressing the evidence found in the defendant’s car.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was pulled over by police for an unrelated violation. As the defendant pulled over, he parked his car on the corner. There was no indication that he illegally parked his car or that there was a limit on how long the defendant’s car was allowed to remain parked at the location.

However, the arresting officers decided to transport the defendant’s vehicle to the police station because they believed it was used in the commission of a crime. When the vehicle arrived at the police station, officers searched the car, finding a gun. The defendant was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.

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Recently, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case, important to New York Criminal defense lawyers, requiring the court to determine if the “community caretaking” function of police officers allows them to enter a private resident’s home. While the Court has not yet issued an opinion in the case, one is expected by the middle of the year. When the Court ultimately decides the case, it could significantly impact New York search and seizure laws.

What Is the Community Caretaking Function?

Under the state and federal constitutions, police officers are generally required to obtain a warrant before searching a person or their belongings, including their cars and homes. However, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement. Most notably, police officers can conduct limited searches after making a lawful arrest.

However, there are also other exceptions. For example, say a police officer sees someone pulled off the side of the road in their car. As the officer drives by, the person is slumped over the wheel. Fearing that the person may have suffered some kind of medical event, the officer stops and knocks on their window. As it turns out, the driver was intoxicated. In this case, although the officer may not have had probable cause to stop the driver, courts would likely consider the traffic stop and subsequent arrest of the defendant lawful because the officer was not investigating a potential crime.

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As New York’s Premier Second Amendment lawyers we eagerly awaited President Joe Biden’s Executive Orders today so we can analyze its effect on our clients.  In reality, today’s announcement had no effect on our clients and really had no effect on any gun owners.  The only people affected seem to be the people who write regulations for the ATF.

To be sure, there were no surprises in the announcement today except the for lack of details after over 2 months in office.  For example, one of the centerpieces of today’s announcement was that the ATF will have 60 days to propose a rule about pistol braces and when such devices will turn a pistol into a short barreled rifle that would be regulated under the National Firearms Act.  However, as we wrote in our December blog, such a rule was already proposed as recently as December, less than 4 months ago and quickly withdrawn under pressure from Congress.  Surely, the ATF could have had something written by now having already written a regulation on the same topic just three and a half months ago.

The other centerpiece of today’s announcement was a direction that the ATF propose rules regarding “ghost guns” within 30 days.  The announcement cites, without any evidence, the proliferation of “ghost guns” that are supposedly being completed by criminals to use in crimes.  It is hard to imagine what such a regulation would look like or how the ATF would regulate an unfinished block of aluminum or polymer.  Will a block of aluminum be considered a firearm if it is 70% complete, 60% complete or 40%?  It is also hard to imagine why after more than 2 months in office no details about any regulation were given or why it would take 30 more days to write such a proposed regulation.

Recently, a state appellate court released an opinion in a New York gun case requiring the court to determine if the officers’ search of the defendant’s car, which was parked outside his home, was within the scope of the search warrant. Ultimately, the court determined that the defendant’s car was not covered by the search warrant and ordered the suppression of all evidence obtained from the vehicle.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers were investigating the defendant for selling heroin from his home. Officers watched on several occasions as the defendant and another man would walk out of the defendant’s home, meet up with someone who pulled up in a car, and exchange items for money. The officers also arranged a controlled buy.

Taking the information they gathered during their investigation, the officers obtained a search warrant. Specifically, the warrant affidavit claimed that there was probable cause to search the defendant and his home. However, when officers arrived to execute the warrant, they also searched his car, finding a loaded gun and other drug-related evidence.

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New York’s premier second amendment law firm announced that a Massachusetts licensed gun owner who was

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Mass has very strict gun laws

arrested for bringing his licensed pistol into Manhattan won a five-year battle to clear his name yesterday after the Appellate Division ruled that the police violated the gun owners Fourth Amendment rights after they stopped a vehicle that he was a passenger in for allegedly running a red light.  Tilem & Associates, PC,  won the decision suppressing the gun and ordering the indictment dismissed after they appealed the denial of the suppression motion and ultimate plea on behalf of the licensed gun owner whose first name is Sandley.  You can read the appellate court decision here.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York firearms case, reversing the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress. The case required the court to determine whether the police officers’ actions leading to the defendant’s tossing of the gun were justified.

The Facts of the Case

According to the appellate court’s recitation of the fact, police officers received a call describing a group of men, two of whom had “guns out.” The 911 caller told the dispatcher one of the men had on a tan-and-black coat, and another a black coat.

Officers responded to the scene to find two groups of men walking in opposite directions. One officer stopped a man in a tan-and-black coat, searched him, and found nothing. Officers then located the defendant, who was wearing a black coat. One officer followed the defendant, relaying his location over police radio.

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After our recent win in an ill-conceived Mossberg Shockwave prosecution earlier this year we would have thought that the issue of the legality of “Other” weapons in New York  would be resolved.  However, rumors started spreading late last week that a New York Licensed gun store owner and licensed dealer was arrested and charged with multiple felonies for selling AR-15 based “Others”.  Our law firm, is closely monitoring this case.

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Dark Storm Industries Non-NFA “Other”Weapon

According to information that we received, Jerome Rallo, the owner of Jerry’s Firearms in Bohemia, New York has been charged with multiple felonies under New York State law for selling illegal weapons including the top counts of Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First Degree, a class “B” violent felony which carries a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison and a maximum of 25 years in prison.

An appellate court recently issued a decision reversing a New York criminal defendant’s conviction for Criminal Possession of a Weapon. The defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress evidence, the sawed-off shotgun, found to charge him with the crime, and the jury found him guilty. Amongst other issues, the defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress. The charges arose after police officers stopped the vehicle in which the defendant was a passenger. Officers discovered a sawed-off shotgun and then found a shotgun shell on the defendant.

The officers claimed that they initiated a search of the car after discovering a shotgun shell during a protective pat-down of the defendant. The officers claimed that this discovery provided them with probable cause to search the car, which led to the discovery of the shotgun. The defendant argued that the People did not provide any evidence to support this. He contended that law enforcement searched the car before the pat-down. The court found that even though the People raised arguments that may justify the search, the law does not permit the appellate court from considering those factors because they were not ruled upon by the lower court. Ultimately, they held the appeal and remitted the matter to the lower court for review.

New York firearm possession charges carry serious penalties, and it is crucial that criminal defendants seek representation from an experienced attorney. Those that do not possess a handgun license may be found guilty of unlawful possession. There are four main charges that are typically associated with firearm possession. In some cases, the court may enhance penalties depending on the circumstances and related charges.

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