As we have discussed many times, experienced criminal defense lawyers know, that seeking suppression of evidence can often be the best defense to a crime charging possession (of drugs, guns or other illegal items). Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun possession case. The case required the court to determine if the trial court properly granted the defendant’s motion to suppress. Ultimately, the court concluded that the police officers lacked probable cause to arrest the defendant, and affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress. In this case, both the trial Court and the Appellate Court concluded that the police lacked probable cause to arrest someone who was found to be in possession of a handgun magazine. It is important to note however that had this case been decided in New York City, where the administrative code of the City of New York makes it a crime to possess handgun magazines, the results may have been different.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, police received a call reporting a dispute at a local bar that possibly involved a gun. Upon arrival, police spoke to the bartender who told them that the defendant was the one suspected of having a gun. Police patted the defendant down, discovering that he had two ammunition clips in his pockets.
Police then arrested the defendant. A post-arrest search revealed no weapons, but the defendant’s car – which was parked across the street – was towed and impounded. The defendant was read his Miranda rights and consented to a search of the vehicle. While searching the trunk of the car, police recovered a stolen .45 caliber handgun.