Court Issues Opinion in New York Gun Case Involving Parole Officers’ Search Based on Anonymous Tip

An individual charged and convicted upon a guilty plea of a New York weapons offense recently appealed his conviction based on a constitutional violation of his rights. The accused argues that the trial court erred in failing to suppress evidence that his parole officer recovered during searching the man’s home. He argued that the search was precipitated on an uncorroborated anonymous tip. Moreover, he contended that the officers did not establish the tip’s source of knowledge or reliability.

According to the record, the appellant’s parole officer explained that he received a call through the Department of Probation that the appellant may have a firearm. The parole officer then searched the appellant’s residence and discovered a firearm wrapped in plastic underneath clothes in a closet. The court refused to review the appellant’s contention on appeal, reasoning that the accused did not raise it before the court. However, a dissenting judge explained that, in his view, the warrantless search was unlawful because it rested solely on an anonymous tip from an unidentified person.

New York is one of the few states that retain the Aguilar-Spinelli test to determine the validity of a warrantless arrest stemming from an anonymous tip or confidential informant. Under this test, law enforcement must provide the magistrate signing the warrant with reasons to support the finding that the informant is reliable and of some of the circumstances that the informant relied upon. Further, after arraignment, law enforcement must establish facts that show the anonymous tipster is reliable and credible and establish the circumstances relied upon by the tipster. Despite this test, there is limited guidance on when a confidential informant or anonymous tipster should be deemed “reliable.” Lower courts rarely find anonymous tipsters reliable in the absence of predictive information.

In this case, the dissenting judge disagreed with the decision, reasoning that it was the People’s burden to establish that the officer was “reasonably justified” in conducting the warrantless search. He asserted the importance of a parolee’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and searches, understanding that reasonableness may be relative to an individual not on parole. However, in this case, he believes that because the parole officer’s sole reason for searching was based on an unsubstantiated anonymous tip, the case should have been reversed.

Have You Been Arrested and Charged Based on an Anonymous Tip?

If you or someone you know has been arrested, charged, or convicted of a New York criminal offense based on an anonymous tip, the attorneys at Tilem & Associates can help. Our trial attorneys provide clients with personalized solutions and aggressive representation no matter the charges they face or their prior record. We handle New York gun cases, DWIs and DUIs, theft offenses, drug charges, violent crimes, and more. Our attorneys can help you fight for your rights and protect your future and your freedom. Contact our office at 877-377-8666 to schedule a free, confidential consultation with a New York criminal defense lawyer on our team to see how we can help.

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