In a recent case before a New York court of appeals, the defendant appealed his conviction of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. On appeal, the defendant argued that the officers’ search warrants were invalid and did not meet the correct legal standard that would have allowed the officers to reasonably search the defendant’s apartment. Looking at the warrants, the court of appeals ultimately disagreed, sustaining the defendant’s guilty verdict.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, a confidential informant told undercover police officers that the defendant had illegal substances and weapons in his apartment. The defendant had no idea the police were suspicious of him, and he thus was unaware they had secured warrants from a judge to search his two apartments.
Soon, however, the officers executed their search warrants and came into the defendant’s apartment unannounced. They recovered various items, including one loaded pistol, heroin, fentanyl, and drug paraphernalia, immediately charging the defendant after having found these items.
The defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized by the police by filing a motion to controvert to search warrants, and he argued that the warrants were not well-supported by actual and believable facts. The lower court disagreed and ruled that the warrants were acceptable, but the defendant promptly appealed this decision.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the warrants did not indicate that the officers had “probable cause” to suspect he had any illegal items. In the state of New York, search warrant applications must provide the court with sufficient information to support a belief that evidence of criminal activity will be present at the scene of the search. This is a high standard, said the defendant, and the officers had not officered evidence of how they were at least fairly confident they would find evidence of drugs or weapons in the apartment. Because the search warrant was invalid, said the defendant, the evidence was inadmissible in court.
The higher court looked at the search warrants in question and did not share exactly what these warrants said. The warrants were official court documents and would potentially reveal the identity of the officers’ confidential informant. Thus, the defendant had to trust the court when it said the warrants were specific, believable, and supported enough so that the court could reasonably believe that the defendant was worth being searched.
Having made this decision, the court then upheld the finding of guilt.
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