New York Court Denies Defendant’s Argument in Weapons Case that Informant was Unreliable and Untrustworthy

In a recent New York gun crime case decided in a Appellate Court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his firearm conviction by arguing that his original arrest was based on unreliable information. His sentence was however reversed on other grounds.  According to the defendant, there was insufficient evidence that the informant who had tipped police officers off to his activity was reliable and trustworthy. Because it was not clear whether or not the officers could trust the informant, it was unreasonable for the officers to arrest the defendant based on the single tip. The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately denied his appeal, citing the officers’ long-term relationship with the informant as evidence of the informant’s trustworthiness.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a confidential informant let police officers know that there was an individual in a specified location with a gun in his hand. Upon hearing this tip, officers went to the scene and found the person matching the informant’s description. The officers approached the person, who later became the defendant in this case, and placed him under arrest. Upon his arrest, the defendant immediately stated, “I have a firearm in my waistband.”

The officers recovered the firearm and the defendant was charged and convicted of attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. He appealed shortly thereafter.

The Decision

The defendant argued on appeal that the officers did not have probable cause to arrest him in the first place. According to the defendant, there was not enough evidence in the record that the confidential informant was both reliable and trustworthy. Without this evidence, it was unreasonable for the officers to heavily rely on the informant and arrest the defendant in the first place. Because the arrest was unreasonable, said the defendant, the gun that officers found should have been suppressed.

The court looked at the nature of the relationship between the informant and the officers. The informant, said the court, was a long-term paid confidential informant. The police knew the informant’s identity and had worked with him for many years; thus, his information was reliable and trustworthy. Furthermore, the informant testified at trial and described in detail how he knew the defendant was carrying a gun. He had previously been standing with the defendant at the location where the defendant was later arrested, and his description of the defendant’s appearance was extremely detailed.

Given the fact that the informant was both a trustworthy source and a person with firsthand knowledge, the court decided it was reasonable for the officers to trust the informant’s tip. Thus, the arrest was valid and the defendant’s appeal was denied.

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