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Court Upholds Warrantless Search in Recent New York Kidnapping Case

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York kidnapping case. In its opinion, the court addressed the defendant’s motion to suppress physical evidence obtained when the officers executed a warrantless search of his home. The defendant also sought suppression of post-arrest statements he made to detectives.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers received a call indicating that the caller’s friend may have been kidnapped. Apparently, the defendant and several others allegedly kidnapped the complaining witness and called several of their friends, asking for a ransom. One friend recognized the caller’s voice as the defendant’s.

Officers tracked the calls to the defendant’s home, where he lived with his cousin who, interestingly, was a police officer. Upon arrival at the home, officers found the alleged victim tied up in the garage. The victim informed the police that the kidnappers were still in the home. Police officers knocked on the door and were given permission by the defendant’s cousin to enter. Inside, police found the phones used to make the ransom calls and identity theft equipment. The defendant was arrested as he was walking away from the home.

Police officers obtained a warrant to search the home, finding a credit card with the victim’s name on it. The defendant waived his Miranda rights and provided a statement to detectives. However, at trial, the defendant sought suppression of the credit card, phones and identity theft equipment and his statements, arguing that they were the result of the officers’ illegal entry into the home. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and the defendant appealed.

The Court’s Opinion

The court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress. The court explained that the defendant’s cousin—a resident of the home—gave police permission to enter the home. As a result, police officers were justified in going inside without first obtaining a warrant. Interestingly, the court found that the cousin’s failure to tell the officers to leave or tell them that they could not enter was the equivalent of consent. Thus, it appears as though the defendant’s cousin may not have explicitly given consent. Regardless, the court found the defendant’s cousin’s actions sufficient to provide the officers with consent to enter the home and conduct a search.

The court also noted that the cell phones and identity theft equipment were in plain view inside the home, obviating the need for a search warrant once the officers were legally present in the home.

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