New York Appellate Court Reverses Gun Charge Based on Improper Admission of Unlawfully Seized Evidence

 In many situations, it is best to  seek guidance from an experienced New York criminal lawyer as early in the process as possible.  The authorities do not always have your best interests in mind, whereas a criminal defense lawyer can advise you of your rights at each step of the process. As we have discussed in prior blogs about cases such as DWI or crimes involving possession of guns marijuana or drugs seeking suppression of the evidence, may be a defendant’s best defense.    A well-established constitutional rule states that evidence obtained from unlawful searches and seizures cannot be used against the accused. As a recent criminal case demonstrates, whether you can successfully assert this defense can have a huge impact on your involvement in a criminal investigation.

In the case, the defendant walked to a hospital in Queens after sustaining a gunshot wound. According to New York law, the hospital contacted the police to report the shooting. The defendant informed the responding authorities that he was shot in a local park. At the time he spoke with the authorities, the defendant was wearing hospital clothing. The officer asked to see the clothing that the defendant was wearing when he arrived at the hospital, which the hospital staff had placed in a clear plastic bag on the floor of the trauma room near where the defendant was resting. The police officer proceeded to investigate each item of clothing. According to evidence presented at trial, the authorities believed that the defendant shot himself accidentally with a gun that he had placed in his waistband.

The defendant was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and third degree. The defendant filed a motion seeking to suppress the clothes, stating that the officer performed a warrantless seizure of the clothing. The prosecution opposed the motion, stating that police are allowed to seize items in open and plain view and that since the clothing was in a clear plastic bag on the floor, the officer was not required to first obtain a warrant.

The jury convicted the defendant of all of the charges, and the Appellate Division upheld the judgment. It reasoned that since the clothing was in a clear plastic bag in plain view, the police had probable cause to search and seize the clothing without a warrant. The defendant appealed. The appellate court reversed the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress the clothing-related evidence, stating that there was no evidence in the record suggesting that the clothing the defendant had been wearing when he arrived at the hospital was an instrumentality of the crime. The appellate court vacated the judgment and remanded the case.

If you are involved in a criminal investigation, the seasoned gun crime lawyers at Tilem & Associates are prepared to assist you in protecting your rights. We understand just how stressful and intimidating this process can be for you and your family, and we will ensure that your rights are protected at each step of the investigation and during any subsequent trial. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 1-877-377-8666 or contact us online to get started.

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