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New York Court Approves Traffic Stop after Officer Observes Defendant’s Car Parked in a Parking Lot with No Open Businesses

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York DWI case involving the question of whether the arresting officer had the legal authority to approach the defendant’s parked car and knock on the window. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer possessed the authority to do so. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress and affirmed his convictions.

According to the court’s written opinion, a police officer was on routine patrol when he saw the defendant pull into an empty parking lot shortly after midnight. At the time, no businesses nearby were open. About 20 minutes later, the officer drove by the parking lot again, and he noticed that the defendant’s car was still parked in the lot, running with its lights on. The officer approached the defendant’s vehicle to see the defendant slumped over the steering wheel. Ultimately, the defendant was arrested for DUI and related offenses.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to approach his vehicle, as there was no indication that he was involved in any criminal activity. Indeed, the police officer testified at the motion that he was “unsure” what he would find when he approached the vehicle, and did not think that “criminal activity was afoot.”

The court, however, rejected the defendant’s motion, noting that “the mere approach by police to an occupied parked vehicle, especially one situated as was defendant’s, in order to inquire is a minimal intrusion, which is not the equivalent of a stop.” The court went on to explain, that such a minimal intrusion can be supported by any “objective, credible reason, not necessarily indicative of criminality.” In these cases, police officers are able to briefly ask a person their identity, where they are going, or why they are in the area.

Here, the court noted that, while there was nothing suggesting that the defendant was involved in criminal activity, there had been several recent robberies and burglaries in the area. The court also noted that the officer’s initial knocking on the defendant’s window was only after the defendant could clearly be seen slumped over the wheel, possibly in need of medical attention. Taking all the evidence into account, the court determined that the officer’s actions were justified and that the defendant’s motion to suppress was properly denied.

Have You Been Arrested after a New York Traffic Stop?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious crime after a traffic stop, contact the New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent clients in all types of serious misdemeanor and felony cases, including New York DWI cases, drug cases, and gun cases. We have decades of experience aggressively defending the rights of those facing criminal cases, and take our role very seriously. To learn more about how we can help you defend your freedom against the allegation you are facing, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free, no obligation, consultation today.

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