Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun crime case discussing whether the arresting officer’s conduct violated the defendant’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer possessed a reasonable belief that the defendant was armed or had recently committed a crime, and thus it held that the search of the defendant was permissible.
Police Interaction with Citizens
Under New York law, there are four levels of interactions between a police officer and a citizen. The more evidence a police officer has to believe that they are in danger or that the suspect has committed a crime, the more authority the officer has to stop, detain, frisk, and search the individual.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was riding in a vehicle as the front-seat passenger, when the car was pulled over by police for a traffic violation. As one of the police officers approached the vehicle, he noticed that the defendant made a sudden move with his hand from his right shoulder to his lap area.
The officer continued to approach the car, noticing that the defendant was not making eye contact with him, was breathing heavily, and seemed to be nervous. The officer also noticed that there was an oddly shaped package on the defendant’s lap. The officer held the defendant’s hands as he ordered the defendant to exit the vehicle. As the defendant got out of the car, the package fell onto the floorboard, exposing the butt of a firearm. The officers seized the package, which also contained ammunition.
The defendant was charged with criminal possession of a weapon. In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the officer violated his constitutional rights. The court, however, disagreed.
The court explained that police officers are able to remove the occupants of a vehicle during a traffic stop, regardless of whether the officer believes that anyone in the car has committed a crime. The court went on to explain that, given the defendant’s “furtive movements” and nervousness, the officer was justified in grasping the defendant’s hands as he was asked to exit the vehicle. The court explained that this was a minimally invasive way to ensure that the defendant would not be able to access the contents of the package as he was exiting the vehicle.
As a result, the court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress, also affirming his conviction for criminal possession of a firearm.
Have You Been Arrested in a New York Gun Case?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a gun crime, you should immediately reach out to the dedicated New York gun crime attorneys at the law firm of Tilem and Associates. At Tilem and Associates, we represent those charged with serious New York felony offenses, taking every precaution to ensure that our clients’ rights are respected throughout the process. We also handle less serious misdemeanor cases because we understand that any New York conviction has the potential to permanently alter the course of your life. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.