Recently, a New York appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York DWI case discussing the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during what could be characterized as a “wellness check.” Ultimately, the court held that the officer’s actions were justified, and denied the defendant’s motion.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, an officer was on routine patrol when he saw a truck parked along the side of the road with no one inside. The officer pulled up behind the vehicle, noticing that it was running. The officer then exited his car, approached the driver’s side door, and saw that the defendant was hunched over the wheel, asleep.
The officer tapped on the window, and after about 30 seconds, the defendant came to. The officer asked him out of the car several times, and on the third time, the defendant complied. During this time, the officer noticed that the defendant seemed intoxicated. Specifically, the defendant had “bloodshot, watery eyes, dilated eyes, slurred speech and a strong odor of alcoholic beverages emanating from the vehicle.”
As the defendant stepped out of the vehicle, he was unsteady on his feet. The officer patted the defendant down, finding a vape pen with concentrated cannabis oil inside. At this point, the officer conducted several field sobriety tests, which indicated to the officer that the defendant was under the influence. The defendant agreed to take a breath test, which indicated he also had alcohol in his system.
In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant raised several issues. First, whether the officer was justified in approaching his vehicle. Second, whether the officer’s request for the defendant to step out of the car was justified. And finally, whether the officer’s search of the defendant was permissible.
The Court went through a Debour analysis as we have previously discussed. The court found that, at each step of the officer’s investigation, he was justified in the actions he took. The court explained that, to approach a vehicle, an officer only needs an “articulable basis” for doing so. At the point when the officer noticed the defendant seemed intoxicated, the officer was permitted to ask the defendant out of the car to further his investigation. And, once the defendant was out of the car, it was likely that he was going to be arrested for driving under the influence. Thus, the officer did not violate the defendant’s rights by patting him down.
While the defendant’s motion was denied, the case illustrates the step-by-step process courts take when reviewing an officer’s actions leading up to a search or seizure. Police officers need a valid reason for any intrusion on a defendant’s freedom, and must present articulable facts to support their actions.
Have You Been Arrested for a New York Drunk Driving Offense?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a New York DWI offense, reach out to the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling all types of drunk driving offenses, and are know how to craft a strong defense to almost any charge. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 877-377-8666 today.