In a recent opinion decided in a New York appellate court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his New York firearm case. The defendant was originally found guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and unlawful possession of pistol ammunition. When evaluating the defendant’s appeal, the court used a four-level test that is common in New York criminal law to assess the legitimacy of interactions between police officers and pedestrians. Determining that the interaction between the officer and the defendant in this case was legitimate, the court denied the defendant’s appeal.
Facts of the Case
The defendant was charged after an interaction with a police officer in 2019. According to the opinion, the officer had received a tip that the defendant had a firearm on his person, so the officer approached the defendant to investigate the situation. When the officer asked the defendant to take his hands out of his pockets, the defendant refused, instead pushing past the officer in an attempt to evade the interaction.
The officer then grabbed the defendant’s pocket. At this point, it became clear to the officer that the defendant had a gun in his pocket, and he used force to stop the defendant so that he could fully investigate the situation. The officer found the gun, and the defendant was arrested and charged accordingly.
After the defendant was found guilty of firearm possession, he appealed, arguing that the physical evidence of the gun should have been suppressed. According to the defendant, the interaction he had with the officer was unreasonably intrusive. The officer had no justification for grabbing the defendant and searching his pockets, and because the officer violated the defendant’s right to to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the firearm should not have been allowed into evidence.
The court examined the nature of the interaction between the officer and the defendant while evaluating the defendant’s argument. In this examination, the court looked at New York’s four-level test under Debour, for deciding when officers can justifiably use force in their interactions with pedestrians. The first level, said the court, allows a police officer only to request information from an individual and requires that the officer have some kind of credible reason to ask the individual for information. The second level allows an officer to use some sort of physical force when the officer suspects that criminal activity is likely occurring. The third level allows the officer to detain an individual when there is reasonable suspicion of a crime, and the fourth level allows the officer to arrest the individual if there is probable cause to believe the crime has occurred.
Here, said the court, the officer was appropriately acting on level two of the four-part test. When the defendant refused to take his hands out of his pockets, the officer could reasonably suspect that criminal activity was afoot, allowing him to intrude on the defendant’s privacy by physically stopping him from moving forward. Once the officer felt the firearm in the defendant’s pocket, the interaction escalated to a level three stop, and the officer could justifiably detain the defendant.
Given the circumstances of the arrest and the nature of the four-level test, the court determined that the officer’s actions were reasonable, denying the defendant’s appeal in the process.
Have You Been Charged with Firearm Possession in New York?
If you are facing criminal charges for firearm possession in New York, we at Tilem & Associates are here to help. Our office has been serving the state of New York for over 25 years, and we are committed to getting you the results you need. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at 877-377-8666.