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New York Court Denies Defendant’s Appeal in Drug Case, Relying on Automobile Exception to the Warrant Requirement

In a recent opinion from a New York court in a New York drug case, the defendant’s appeal of his conviction for drug possession was denied. Originally, the defendant was arrested after officers found heroin in his vehicle, but he filed a motion to suppress the incriminating evidence. The lower court denied this motion, concluding that the officers conducted a proper search of the defendant’s vehicle. On appeal, the higher court agreed with the lower court’s denial of the motion to suppress. The defendant’s guilty conviction was thus affirmed.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, police officers worked on this case with a confidential informant, who provided samples of heroin that he had obtained from the defendant on previous occasions. On the day the defendant was charged for drug possession, the informant had arranged to purchase a large quantity of drugs from the defendant.

Because the officers had previously suspected the defendant of drug possession, they had arranged for a GPS to be put on his car to track his location. Thus on the day the informant was supposed to conduct the drug exchange, the officers were able to locate the defendant and his automobile. They searched the car and subsequently found a bag of heroin inside.

The Decision

The defendant was convicted of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second degree and he was sentenced to three years in prison as a result. On appeal, he argued that the court incorrectly used the automobile exception while considering his case.

As we have detailed in previous posts on this blog, the automobile exception allows officers to search a vehicle without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe that there may be evidence or contraband inside the vehicle. This exception exists because vehicles are mobile and thus if officers had to obtain a warrant every time they wanted to search a car, they would face the very real possibility that the vehicle would have moved by the time they successfully obtained the warrant.

Based on this automobile exception, the lower court had determined that the officers did not need a warrant to search the defendant’s car. The higher court considering the defendant’s appeal agreed with the lower court’s decision to apply the automobile exception, noting that the fact that a GPS was installed on the car did not mean the automobile exception did not apply.

The court also noted that the confidential informant was a reliable source, citing his previous work with the officers and his consistency in those interactions. Other officers were also able to corroborate the informant’s tips, as they had seen interactions between the two parties in the past.

Given the reality of the automobile exception and the nature of the informant’s tips, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Have You Been Charged with Drug Possession in New York?

If you are facing drug charges in New York, call us at Tilem & Associates to talk through your options moving forward. We are dedicated to protecting your rights and keeping you safe, and we pride ourselves on offering you high-quality representation in your time of need. For a free consultation, call us at 877-377-8666.

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