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New York Court Condones Stop of Defendant’s Vehicle Based on Tip from Confidential Informant

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York drug possession case involving the defendant’s claim that a stop and search of her vehicle violated her constitutional rights. Ultimately, however, the court determined that the search was supported by reasonable suspicion, rejecting the defendant’s arguments that the officers conducting the search lacked reasonable suspicion.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was on parole for an unrelated offense. Evidently, a confidential informant provided information to the defendant’s parole officer that the defendant was selling cocaine. The parole officer believed the informant to be reliable, because the informant had given the officer accurate information three other times.

Specifically, the informant told the officer that the defendant would be returning in a Nissan Altima with Connecticut license plates. The parole officer requested that local law enforcement stop the defendant’s vehicle. Based on the parole officer’s request, police stopped the defendant’s car (which matched the description given by the informant) and found cocaine inside the vehicle.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the police officers’ search violated her rights because the information provided to the parole officer was inadequate to give rise to reasonable suspicion. Specifically, the defendant cited a U.S. Supreme Court rule referred to as the “Aguilar-Spinelli” test. The Aguilar-Spinelli test requires police or prosecutors to satisfy certain elements before relying on information provided by a confidential informant. These are:

  1. They must have information indicating the confidential informant is reliable and credible; and
  2. They must have information regarding the confidential informant’s basis of knowledge.

The court rejected the defendant’s motion to suppress, and the defendant appealed to the intermediate appellate court.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s motion. The court explained that, a parole officer can conduct a search as long as it is “rationally and reasonably related to the performance of the parole officer’s duty.” Here, the court determined that to be the case because the informant’s tip that the defendant was selling cocaine, if true, was a violation of the defendant’s parole.

Next, the court went on to address and reject the defendant’s Aguilar-Spinelli argument. The court explained that the parole officer’s testimony that the informant had previously given credible information, coupled with the specificity of the information, satisfied both elements of the test.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York Drug Crime Based on a Tip?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious crime based on another’s tip, you may have several defenses to the crimes you are face. At the criminal defense law firm of Tilem & Associates, we zealously represent clients facing all types of serious allegations, including New York drug crimes, weapons offenses, and more. We have a detailed understanding of the constitutional principles that govern criminal procedure, and put this knowledge to use in each of our clients’ cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 877-377-8666 today.

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