Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun possession case discussing two important concepts that frequently come up in any case involving a possessory offense, including New York drug crimes. Ultimately, the court concluded that the police officers acted appropriately and it denied the defendant’s motion to suppress a gun that was found in the trunk of his car.
The Facts of the Case
The defendant was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a firearm after police officers discovered a handgun in the trunk of a car the defendant was driving. According to the court’s written opinion, the police officers claimed that they initially approached the vehicle to request information from another man whose entire upper body was inside the trunk. As the officers approached the car, they noticed a gun in the trunk in plain view. The officers seized the weapon and arrested the defendant.
The defendant filed a motion to suppress the gun, arguing that the police were not justified in their approach of the vehicle and anything stemming from that illegal approach should be suppressed. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress and the defendant appealed.
The Court’s Opinion
On appeal, the court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion. In so doing, the court briefly discussed two important concepts. First, the court noted that the officers were permitted to approach the vehicle to ask questions of the man whose upper body appeared to be inside the trunk. The court explained that under New York case law, officers have the right to approach a citizen to request information if they can provide a credible basis for their approach. Here, the court determined that the police officers’ stated reason to approach the vehicle was a credible one.
From there, the court went on to explain that the officers’ discovery of the gun was due to the fact that the gun was in “plain view.” Under the plain-view doctrine, officers do not need a warrant or probable cause to seize items that are in plain view. The reasoning behind the doctrine is that the 4th Amendment protects against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” and when an object is in plain view, no “search” is required to locate the object.
Of course, there are limits to the plain-view doctrine. For example, an officer cannot rely on the plain-view doctrine unless the officer has the right to be in the location where the observation was made. For example, a police officer could not trespass into someone’s home without cause, and then seize a gun on the kitchen table.
Have You Been Subject to an Illegal Search or Seizure?
If you have recently been arrested for a New York gun or drug crime and believe that the arresting police officers violated your rights under the laws of the United States or New York, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, our team of zealous advocates works tirelessly to defend our clients’ rights. We have been providing quality legal representation to those who face serious New York criminal charges for decades and provide each client with the individualized care and attention they deserve. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.