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Court Finds Officers Lacked Probable Cause to Stop Defendant in Recent New York Drug Dealing Case

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.

In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that any physical evidence obtained as a result of his arrest should be suppressed because the officers lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop his car. The defendant argued that the officers could only see his back and could not see if anything changed hands during what they thought was a drug transaction.

The court found that the officers did not have a basis to stop the defendant. The court explained that, while officers are entitled to rely on their experience when assessing a potential drug sale, in this case, “the evidence is simply insufficient to establish probable cause to believe that a crime occurred.” The court agreed with the defendant that the officers’ vantage point provided them with no evidence of a drug sale, and that the officers were relying on a “hunch” when they stopped the defendant. In other words, the court held that, just because the officers got lucky and were right that the defendant sold cocaine to the buyer doesn’t excuse their failure to follow the rules. Thus, the court held the drugs and the defendant’s statements should have been suppressed and ordered a new trial.

Have You been Arrested for a New York Drug Case?

If you have been arrested for selling drugs in New York, contact the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we proudly represent individuals facing all types of New York drug offenses, ranging from simple possession to much more serious drug trafficking charges. Our aggressive style of representation has helped hundreds of people put their cases behind them and move on with their lives. To learn more about how we can help you defend against the charges that have been brought against you, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.

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