Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York burglary case discussing whether the lower court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that police recovered from inside of his backpack. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officers had a legal basis to pursue the defendant and that exigent circumstances justified the officers’ search of the pack.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, police officers received a call for a burglary in progress. Moments after police arrived on the scene, another call came in describing the perpetrator as a black male wearing a black hat, carrying a backpack and riding a bicycle. Two minutes later, police officers saw the defendant, who matched this description.
The defendant fled as police tried to stop him. Ultimately, the defendant fell off the bike and was detained. Moments later, the alleged victim came to the scene, shouting, “that’s him!” Police arrested the defendant and then noticed a backpack nearby. The officers opened the backpack, finding several of the alleged victim’s belongings inside.
In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the officers searched the backpack without probable cause. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and the defendant appealed.
The Appellate Court’s Decision
On appeal, the court agreed that the defendant’s motion was without merit. The court initially explained that the officers had reasonable suspicion to pursue the defendant based on the description provided by the alleged victim. The court then went on to hold that, once the complaining witness spontaneously identified the defendant, the officers had probable cause to arrest the defendant.
Regarding the search of the backpack, the court noted that a warrantless search incident to an arrest is permissible if, 1.) the search is not significantly divorced in time or place from the arrest, and 2.) exigent circumstances justified the search. The court explained that exigent circumstances are those based on the threat of harm to the officer, the public, or concerns surrounding the destruction of evidence.
Here, the court held that the backpack at the scene presented exigent circumstances justifying its immediate search. In so holding, the court noted that the defendant was under arrest for a violent crime, he was not cooperative with police, and the bag was located on a public street. Notably, one judge on the five-judge panel dissented from the court’s opinion, finding that the prosecution failed to meet either of its burdens.
Have You Been Arrested for a New York Crime?
If you have recently been arrested for a serious New York theft crime, including burglary, contact Tilem & Associates. The dedicated team of New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates, are known for their aggressive style of representation. With extensive experience negotiating and litigating criminal cases, we are a natural choice to represent you or your loved one. We handle all types of serious felony cases, including New York gun offenses, drug charges, and more. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney, call 877-377-8666 today.