In a recent New York case involving a defendant who was convicted of possession of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a weapon, the court reversed the original lower court’s guilty verdict. On appeal, the defendant argued that incriminating evidence found by police officers should have been suppressed since the officers did not have reason to believe they could search through his private apartment. The court agreed with the defendant, reversing the judgment in the case.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, police officers originally responded to a 911 call made by a woman who reported that her roommate was unconscious on the floor of their apartment. A team of officers and medical personnel arrived at the apartment and discovered that the unconscious woman had died on the floor of the bathroom.
Soon after discovering the woman was dead, an officer decided to conduct a brief search of the residence. As he looked around, he found a digital scale, some powdery residue, and a bag with illegal drugs in the bedroom. Based on these findings, officers proceeded to obtain a warrant to search the entire apartment. They found not only illegal drugs but also a handgun, and the defendant was ultimately charged and convicted for criminal possession 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 did not have the right to conduct this initial brief search of the apartment. Because this search was unreasonable, said the defendant, the officers should not have been able to so easily obtain a warrant to search the rest of the apartment. Thus the incriminating evidence should have been suppressed.
The court agreed with the defendant. The officer who originally looked around the residence had argued that it was acceptable for him to conduct the brief search even without a warrant because he found himself in an emergency situation and he was searching for any evidence to help him identify why the woman had died. The court rejected this argument. The woman in the bathroom had already died by the time the officer began searching the apartment; thus, there was no benefit to be gained by looking around to figure out what had killed her. Because there was no emergency at hand, the officer should have secured a warrant before conducting any kind of search.
Because the court agreed with the defendant, it reversed the judgment and vacated the original plea.
Have You Been Charged with Gun or Drug Possession in New York?
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in the state of New York, it can be easy to feel discouraged at the prospect of fighting your charges. With a lawyer from Tilem & Associates by your side, though, we will present you with possible defenses so that we can do the work to advocate on your behalf. We are a team of creative, hardworking advocates who know the law and are not afraid to use it to aggressively defend your case. We handle all types of cases, including New York weapons crimes and drug cases. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at 877-377-8666.