Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York DWI case discussing the denial of the defendant’s pretrial motion to suppress. The case required the court to determine if the lower court properly denied the defendant’s motion based on the arresting officers’ credibility. Finding that there was no reason to conclude the officer’s testimony at trial was not credible, the court upheld the denial of the defendant’s motion.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s brief opinion, a police officer pulled the defendant over based on his observations that she had her high-beams on and failed to use her turn signal. During the traffic stop, the officer thought the defendant was intoxicated. Ultimately, he arrested the defendant for Driving While Intoxicated.
In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that any evidence of her intoxication should be suppressed based on the fact that the officer’s decision to stop her was unsupported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause. At the motion, the police officer cited two reasons for stopping the defendant’s car. First, she improperly used her high-beams, and second, she failed to use her turn signal.
Based on the court’s language in its opinion, it appears that the defense argued that the officer was not credible during the motion. Nevertheless, the lower court found that officer to be credible. However, the court determined that the defendant’s improper use of her high-beams did not provide the officer with probable cause to pull the defendant over.
After the court denied the defendant’s motion, the prosecution allowed the defendant to plead guilty to the less serious offense of Driving While Impaired. The defendant appealed, again claiming the traffic stop was illegal.
On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to deny the defendant’s motion to suppress. The court began by noting that the lower court’s determination that the officer was credible was entitled to deference from the appellate court, unless that finding was completely unsupported by the evidence. Here, the court found no reason to question the lower court’s credibility determination.
The court then explained that, while the defendant’s use of her high beams was not a sufficient basis to stop the car, the officer’s observation that she also failed to use her signal provided an alternate basis for the stop. The court went on to note that “a police officer who can articulate credible facts establishing reasonable cause to believe that someone has violated a law has established a reasonable basis to effectuate a traffic stop.” Thus, while one of the officer’s two reasons for stopping the defendant was not valid, the traffic stop was still good because there was another alternate basis for the stop.
Have You Been Arrested After a Questionable Traffic Stop?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a crime after being stopped by police, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we have a decades-long history of providing exceptional representation to those facing all types of serious crimes, including New York DWI offenses. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, call 877-377-8666 today.