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Court Finds Officers Did Not Have Reasonable Suspicion to Stop Vehicle Based on Anonymous 911 Call

Often in a New York murder case the court may need to determine if the police officers’ recovery of the alleged murder weapon violated the defendant’s constitutional rights.  Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York murder case requiring the court to determine that issue. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officers did not have the level of suspicion necessary to stop the car in which the defendant was a passenger. Thus, the court determined that the stop violated the defendant’s rights and suppressed the gun recovered as a result of that stop.

According to the court’s opinion, on October 2, 2011, someone entered a residence, shooting and killing one of the occupants. Two days later, an anonymous person called into 911, reporting that there were several males “suspiciously” going in and out of a U-Haul trailer. The males were described as black and Hispanic. The caller stated that three of the males were wearing a black sweatshirt, a brown hoodie, and a red hoodie.

Police officers arrived at the scene, but did not find a U-Haul truck on location. However, while the officers were still in the area, they saw a U-Haul truck drive by. A black male in a brown hoodie was driving the truck. Police stopped and searched the truck, recovering a gun that was later tied to the murder. The defendant, who was a passenger in the truck, gave a statement indicating that he shot the victim after the victim reached for his gun. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the gun, which was denied by the trial court. The defendant was ultimately found guilty of second-degree murder, and appealed.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court erred when it denied his motion to suppress the gun. The defendant argued that police officers did not have reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot when they stopped the U-Haul truck. The court agreed.

The court began its analysis by explaining that police officers must be able to articulate specific facts indicating that they had a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before pulling a vehicle over. Here, the court noted that the only information the officers had at the time they stopped the U-Haul truck was based on the 911 call. However, the 911 caller did not provide the officers with reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the court explained, because the caller did not identify how the males were acting “suspicious.” The court reasoned that U-Haul trucks are commonly used to move, which requires movers to go in and out of the truck. The court held that because the caller failed to identify anything that could be construed as criminal conduct, the officers had no basis to stop the U-Haul truck.

Have You Been Arrested After a Questionable Search?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious New York crime after a questionable search of your person or vehicle, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we defend clients who are facing New York gun charges, and other serious felony offenses. We have a dedicated team of New York criminal defense attorneys ready to meet with you to discuss your case. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.