In a recent case before a New York appellate court, the defendant asked the court to reconsider his conviction for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. In his appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court should have suppressed evidence obtained by the police officers that caught him driving with a firearm. Because the lower court failed to suppress the evidence, argued the defendant, it was the higher court’s responsibility to reverse the judgment and remand the case for further proceedings without the incriminating evidence as part of the record. Ultimately, looking at the evidence in the case, the court of appeals agreed with the defendant and reversed the judgment.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was driving when two police officers pulled him over for speeding. Once they initiated the traffic stop, the officers questioned the defendant and ultimately found a firearm in his vehicle. The defendant was charged, and he filed a motion to suppress the firearm found in his vehicle. The lower court, however, denied this motion, and the defendant was convicted of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.
On appeal, the defendant’s main argument was that the officers did not actually have a legal reason to pull him over in the first place, thus making their traffic stop illegal, and any evidence they found as a result of the stop should have been inadmissible. During the hearing on the defendant’s motion to suppress, both officers testified that they pulled the defendant over because they suspected he was speeding. However, neither of the officers had used radar to actually measure the defendant’s speed before they pulled him over. Instead, the officers testified that they estimated the defendant was traveling around 40 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone.
Additionally, neither of the officers could point to any part of their training in which they had been taught to visually estimate a car’s speed just by looking at it. In fact, one of the officers admitted that he did not think such training existed.
Examining this testimony, the higher court determined that the officers did not actually have a legal basis to pull the defendant over in the first place. Thus, the evidence they found as a result of the traffic stop should have been suppressed by the lower court as “the fruit of a poisonous tree.” With this, the court suppressed the evidence and sent the case back down to the trial court for additional proceedings–this time without the evidence being admitted.
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