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Articles Posted in NARCOTICS

New York drug and gun offenses and convictions can have long-term repercussions, including lengthy prison sentences. Defendants must understand their rights after being arrested, charged, or convicted of a criminal offense. Additionally, it is vital that defendants understand the typical steps of a New York criminal case. Including, arraignment, pre-trial discovery and pre-trial motions, trial, and sentencing. An attorney is a critical resource during this complex process because decisions made during these steps may drastically change the outcome of a criminal case.

An appellate court recently issued a decision in the defendant’s appeal of his criminal conviction of possession of a weapon in the third degree. The case addressed several issues, including the validity of a court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to controvert a search warrant and suppress evidence. In this case, police officers pulled the defendant over for a defective headlight. The officer asked the defendant for his license and registration, and when the defendant rolled down his window, the officer detected the smell of marijuana. The defendant explained that he smoked marijuana earlier in the day. The officer shined his flashlight and noticed an expandable baton. The officer’s computer search revealed that the defendant had an arrest warrant; thus, the officer placed the defendant under arrest.

At the precinct, the officer told the defendant that a K-9 unit was searching the vehicle, at which point the defendant responded that “you can do that all you want, whatever’s in the car, the cars not registered to me, my prints aren’t on it.” The police then obtained and executed a search warrant on the car, where they discovered drugs and a weapon. At a suppression hearing, the court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence and statements to the officers. The defendant then challenged the search warrant; however, the court denied the defendant’s motion. The defendant pleaded guilty; however, on appeal, the defendant challenged his appeal waiver’s validity.

Earlier this month, a state appellate our released an opinion in a New York drug case in which the defendant was alleged to have sold cocaine. The defendant claimed that the evidence obtained as a result of his arrest must be suppressed, because it was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. Ultimately, the court agreed that the officers lacked justification to stop him, ordering a new trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers were conducting an undercover drug surveillance. Officers sat in a car as they watched the defendant interact with another person. Although the officers were looking at the defendant’s back, and could not see what, if anything, was exchanged, they believed it to be a drug transaction.

The officers called in back-up to stop both the defendant, and the alleged buyer. Officers pulled the defendant over and immediately took him out of the car, and placed him in handcuffs. The officers then questioned the defendant, who admitted to possessing cocaine. The officers then retrieved cocaine from his pocket. Other officers stopped the alleged buyer and returned her to the scene, where she identified the defendant as the person who sold her the cocaine.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York drug case, affirming the defendant’s conviction. The court’s opinion, although brief, discusses what has come to be known as an eavesdropping warrant.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects all individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures. Over the years, courts have generally held that, to be “reasonable,” a search must be supported by probable cause. Most often, this requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to conduct a search. Of course, there are certain situations when a warrant is not needed, such as if the officer observes illegal conduct, or the search is conducted incident to a lawful arrest.

Absent an exception to the warrant requirement, law enforcement must obtain a warrant to search a person, their home, their car, or any other private area. Often, law enforcement officers want to search a physical place; however, if they want to search a suspect’s electronic communications, different rules apply.

A state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York gun possession case, last month,  requiring the court to determine if the police officers were justified in stopping the defendant’s vehicle for a traffic violation. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer lacked any basis to believe that a crime had occurred and there was no probable cause to stop the vehicle. Thus, the court held the defendant’s motion to suppress should have been granted and suppressed the firearm.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a state trooper ran the tags on the defendant’s vehicle. The response was: “CONFIRM RECORD WITH ORIGINATOR ** THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN REPORTED AS AN IMPOUNDED VEHICLE —IT SHOULD NOT BE TREATED AS A STOLEN VEHICLE HIT — NO FURTHER ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN BASED SOLELY UPON THIS IMPOUNDED RESPONSE **”

The trooper pulled the defendant over and, as he approached the vehicle, noticed a smell of marijuana and a burnt marijuana joint in the car. The defendant told the trooper that the car had previously been reported stolen, which may explain the message. The trooper searched both the defendant and the car, recovering marijuana and a loaded firearm under the driver’s seat.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York drug possession case involving the defendant’s claim that a stop and search of her vehicle violated her constitutional rights. Ultimately, however, the court determined that the search was supported by reasonable suspicion, rejecting the defendant’s arguments that the officers conducting the search lacked reasonable suspicion.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was on parole for an unrelated offense. Evidently, a confidential informant provided information to the defendant’s parole officer that the defendant was selling cocaine. The parole officer believed the informant to be reliable, because the informant had given the officer accurate information three other times.

Specifically, the informant told the officer that the defendant would be returning in a Nissan Altima with Connecticut license plates. The parole officer requested that local law enforcement stop the defendant’s vehicle. Based on the parole officer’s request, police stopped the defendant’s car (which matched the description given by the informant) and found cocaine inside the vehicle.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York drug case discussing the validity of the search that resulted in the discovery of narcotics. The case required the court to discuss the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and whether they necessitated suppression of the evidence seized by police.

Police must follow the requirements of the United States and New York constitutions when investigating crime and making arrests. If they fail to do so, or otherwise violate a defendant’s rights, any evidence they obtain cannot be used against the defendant at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was under investigation when he admitted to the police that he had synthetic cannabinoids in his home. Under New York law, the possession of synthetic cannabinoids was not illegal under criminal statutes, however, it was a violation of the State Sanitary Code. Relying on the defendant’s admission, police officers secured a search warrant to search the defendant’s home. Upon doing so, police recovered morphine tablets and brass knuckles, both of which are illegal to possess.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun possession case discussing whether the arresting officer had a “founded suspicion” that there was criminal activity afoot. Ultimately, the court held that the defendant’s motion to suppress the firearm that was found on him should have been granted, because the arresting officer approached, stopped, questioned and subsequently searched the defendant without sufficient reason.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was out walking his dog in an area known to be an “open air drug market” when he was approached by a police officer. That night, the temperature was about 40 degrees, and the defendant was wearing a mask that covered part of his face. The officer, who had only been on the force a few months and was working underneath a more experienced officer, pulled his vehicle in front of the defendant’s line of travel, got out of the car, and approached the defendant to ask him why he was wearing a mask. The defendant responded that he was walking his dog.

At this time, the more experienced training officer asked the defendant what was in a bag that he was carrying. The defendant responded that it was “weed.” The arresting officer then frisked the defendant and found a gun. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the gun, arguing that the arresting officer lacked reason to stop and question him, as well as to conduct the pat-frisk that led to the discovery of the gun.

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As we reported in February, the Supreme Court heard argument on  a drug case that will likely have significant consequences for many facing New York gun charges.  Now, the United States Supreme Court issued a written opinion  in the case.  Specifically, the case required the Court to interpret the provision of the Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA) imposing mandatory sentences for those who are convicted of a gun offense after having previously been convicted of at least three drug offenses.

The ACCA seeks to impose escalating punishments for the possession of a firearm, based on a defendant’s prior record. For example, if a defendant is convicted of a gun offense, and has three prior “serious drug offenses,” the defendant is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 15 years. Of course, not every state’s laws are written the same way, and this requires federal courts to determine whether a drug conviction should be considered a “serious drug offense” under the ACCA.

The Facts of the Case

According to the Court’s opinion, the defendant pleaded guilty to a firearm offense and, based on the defendant’s six prior cocaine-related convictions, he received a sentence of 15 years’ incarceration. On appeal, the defendant challenged the lower court’s finding that the six offenses qualified as “serious drug offenses” under the ACCA.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York drug possession case discussing the defendant’s motion to suppress. Specifically, the defendant appealed the lower court’s denial of his motion to suppress arguing that the arresting officer’s pat-frisk of the defendant was illegal. Without answering the ultimate question, the appellate court concluded that the trial court failed to engage in the proper inquiry, and sent the case back to the trial court for further analysis.

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer watched as the defendant visited a known drug house. As the defendant left, the officer followed the defendant’s vehicle to “try to get a reason to stop it.” The officer witnessed the defendant make two traffic violations, and pulled him over. As the police officer approached the defendant’s car, he saw the defendant moving around and reaching behind the driver’s seat. The officer removed the defendant, patted him down, and felt what he believed to be narcotics in the defendant’s pants. The officer asked the defendant what he had on him, and the defendant admitted to having seven grams of crack.

The defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance. In a pre-trial motion, the defendant argued that both the crack and his statement to police should be suppressed. However, the trial court found that the officer “had a founded suspicion of criminal activity before the frisk was conducted, thus authorizing the arresting officer to ask the defendant whether he had anything on him.” The trial court denied the defendant’s motion.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York marijuana possession case involving the question of whether the defendant could legally be convicted of tampering with evidence after he threw a bag of marijuana to the ground while being chased by police. The court determined that the defendant’s conduct did not meet the necessary elements of tampering with physical evidence, noting that the proper charge was the lesser offense of attempted tampering with physical evidence.

According to the court’s opinion, police officers were conducting surveillance out in front of a store after there were recent reports of people drinking and selling drugs outside the store. The undercover police officers observed the defendant leave the store while drinking from a bottle that was wrapped in a brown paper bag. Thinking that the defendant was violating the state’s open-container laws, the officers gave the defendant’s description to backup officers, instructing them to stop the defendant.

As the backup officers tried to stop the defendant, the defendant dropped the brown paper bag to the ground and ran. The bottle broke as it hit the ground. A backup officer started to chase the defendant, and noticed that the defendant threw a baggie that was later determined to contain marijuana. After his arrest, the defendant punched the officer in the face. The defendant was charged with various crimes, including assault, possession of marijuana, and tampering with physical evidence. The prosecution argued that by throwing the baggie of marijuana, the defendant tampered with evidence.

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