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Articles Posted in NARCOTICS

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion reversing a lower court’s decision which denied a defendant’s motion to suppress the drugs that were recovered in a New York drug case. The case involved a traffic stop conducted by police officers who were investigating information that a vehicle would be transporting a large quantity of narcotics. Ultimately, the court concluded that the search of the defendant’s vehicle was unconstitutional based on the information the officers had at the time of the stop.

The Facts of the Case

Police officers intercepted communication indicating that a Ford Explorer would be transporting a large amount of drugs through a particular part of the state on a given night. That night, certain New York State Troopers were told to wait on the highway and stop the Ford Explorer as it passed.

Officers waited for six hours for the Ford Explorer. When they saw it approaching, they stopped the vehicle, arrested the defendant and her codefendant, and searched the car. Officers found a large amount of drugs. No law enforcement ever obtained or sought a warrant for the defendant’s arrest or the search of their vehicle.

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The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution prohibit law enforcement officers from unreasonably searching or seizing persons or property from citizens in the United States. This is an issue that should be explored by criminal defense lawyers who represent those charged with possessing contraband such as drug offenses or gun offenses.  The Fourth Amendment generally requires officers to obtain a warrant from a judge before searching someone’s home. To comply with legal precedent, warrants need to be specific and limited in scope so law enforcement officers do not exceed the authority given to them by the judge who issued a warrant. The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, recently reversed convictions of a defendant who was charged with drug offenses based on evidence obtained by a search outside the scope of a valid search warrant.

The defendant in the recently decided case was charged with drug and paraphernalia possession after police executed a search warrant on his home. The search warrant was limited to the defendant’s apartment and any shared common areas within the home. When performing the search authorized by the warrant, police officers entered a locked attic that was outside of the defendant’s apartment and found the drugs for which the defendant was charged. Before trial, the defendant attempted to have the evidence from the attic suppressed by the trial court, arguing that the locked attic was not part of the defendant’s apartment nor was it a shared common area in the home. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and he eventually pleaded guilty to the charges, subject to his right to appeal the court’s decision on the motion to suppress.

On appeal, the higher court questioned whether the locked attic was an area that was included in the search warrant. Because the attic was not a part of the defendant’s apartment, the court had to determine whether the attic was a shared common area of the home as described in the warrant. Because evidence suggested that the attic was locked before the search, the court found that it was not a common area of the home and that the search warrant did not authorize entry into the attic. As a result of this finding, the court ruled that the drug evidence found in the attic should not have been admitted at trial, and reversed the defendant’s convictions which were based upon that evidence.

Law enforcement agencies are prevented from performing unreasonable searches of members of the public or their property by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. These constitutional protections extend to areas where a person has an expectation of privacy, including items that have been mailed through the U.S. Postal Service or third-party commercial carriers. Police usually must obtain a search warrant in order to open and search a piece of mail that they suspect may contain contraband or evidence of a crime. Failure to timely obtain a valid search warrant before opening and searching a piece of mail could render any evidence obtained in the search inadmissible at trial. The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division recently rejected a defendant’s appeal, which had claimed that the warrant used to search a piece of mail he had sent was not valid.

The defendant in the recently decided appeal was arrested after authorities obtained a search warrant and searched a piece of mail that he had dropped off at a post office, and drugs were found. According to the facts discussed in the judicial opinion, the search warrant was issued on September 14, 2017. The defendant’s appeal was based on an affidavit from an investigator that stated the search was performed on September 12, 2017, two days prior to the issuance of the valid warrant. Before trial, the defendant attempted to suppress the evidence obtained in connection with the warrant based on this discrepancy and the apparent illegality of the search. The trial judge denied the defendant’s motion, finding multiple other sources of evidence in the record that stated the search actually was performed on September 14, 2017, after the warrant had been issued. The defendant was eventually convicted of drug and gun charges at trial.

The defendant appealed his conviction to the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, arguing that the search appeared to have been performed two days prior to the issuance of the warrant and that the evidence obtained in the search was therefore inadmissible. The high court rejected the defendant’s claims, finding ample evidence in the record that the search was performed after the issuance of the warrant. The court determined that the singular reference to a search occurring two days before the warrant was issued was a typographical error and that the actual search occurred after the issuance of the warrant. As a result of the appellate decision, the defendant’s conviction will be upheld.

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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