In the past, we have written several blogs about the importance of suppression in criminal cases in general and specifically with DWI cases. Recently, a court granted a defendant’s motion to suppress in a New York DUI case that was initiated by police officers pulling the defendant over for having tinted windows. The court granted the motion based on a total lack of testimony regarding the officers’ observations of the degree of tint on the defendant’s windows. The court noted that excessive tint is a valid basis for a New York traffic stop. However, here the prosecution failed to elicit evidence that the tint on the defendant’s windows was greater than that which was legally permissible.
The Facts of the Case
The defendant was pulled over by an off-duty police officer based on the vehicle’s tinted windows. The off-duty officer testified that he instructed the defendant to pull over and, through his open window, could smell the odor of alcohol and could see that the defendant’s eyes were watery and bloodshot. The officer also testified that he based these conclusions on his twelve years as a New York City police officer. The officer explained that the only reason he pulled the defendant over was that he noticed “tinted windows.”
The off-duty officer called in back-up, who arrived a short time later. The back-up officer was less experienced than the off-duty officer, but testified to having made between 12-15 DUI arrests in his 15 months as a New York City police officer. The officer also noted that the defendant smelled of alcohol.
The officers administered a breath test, indicating that the defendant’s blood-alcohol content was .11, which was over the legal limit. The defendant was arrested and charged with DUI.
The Defendant’s Motion to Suppress
In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant claimed that the off-duty police officer who stopped him lacked cause to do so. Specifically, the defendant claimed that the officer’s statement that he pulled him over because of his tinted windows was insufficient to establish that the defendant had committed a traffic offense.
The court agree with the defendant, explaining that while excessive tint is illegal in New York, having tinted windows within the permissible range is not illegal. Here, the court noted, the officer based the traffic stop of the defendant solely on the fact that he noticed the defendant’s “tinted windows.” There was no indication of the level of tint or how the officer determined what level the tint was, and whether it was tinted in excess of what was allowed. Thus, the only evidence before the court was that the defendant’s windows were tinted, which does not provide the basis for a traffic stop. As a result, the court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress.
Have You Been Charged with a New York DUI?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a New York DUI crime, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent those who have been charged with serious New York felonies and misdemeanors defend themselves against the charges they face. Whether your case is resolved through a motion to suppress or a jury trial, we zealously represent our clients from the beginning to end, and are prepared to file an appeal if necessary. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case.