Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun case, raising the issue of whether the defendant had standing to bring a motion to suppress the physical evidence in the case. Specifically, the defendant intended on suppressing a firearm that was found in a backpack. The lower court denied the defendant’s motion without specifying a basis. On appeal, the court determined it was unable to decide the case without having the benefit of the lower court’s reasoning. The appellate court remanded the case so the lower court could provide its reasoning.
According to the court’s opinion, police officers found and searched a backpack that was in the back yard of a vacant house in Queens. Inside the backpack was a gun. The defendant’s godmother lived next door to the vacant house. At the time when the police found the backpack the defendant and seven other people were present in that home. Police officers arrested all seven people. Later, at the police station, the defendant admitted that the backpack and gun belonged to him.
The defendant filed a motion to suppress the gun, as well as his statement, from evidence. The defendant argued that the officers lacked a warrant or probable cause to search the backpack. In response, the prosecution argued that the defendant lacked standing to bring the motion. The court denied the defendant’s motion without providing any reasoning. On appeal, the court sent the case back down to the trial court so that court could clarify its holding.
The Concept of Standing
The term standing is a rather complex legal principle that refers to a defendant’s legal ability to bring a claim. Before a defendant can bring a motion to suppress physical evidence based on an illegal search, the defendant must show that he has 1.) a subjective expectation of privacy in the area that was searched, and 2.) that expectation of privacy is one that society is willing to recognize as reasonable.
As a general matter, a defendant does not have standing to argue a motion to suppress physical evidence that was found inside a container, such as a backpack, that was abandoned. The reasoning behind this is that a defendant cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy in something they voluntarily relinquish control over, because anyone could gain access to the item.
The concept of standing frequently comes up in New York motions to suppress. Those facing possessory crimes, such as gun and drug offenses, should consult with a dedicated New York criminal defense attorney to discuss their situation.
Contact a New York Criminal Defense Attorney for Immediate Assistance
If you were recently arrested and charged with a serious crime, contact the experienced New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we proudly represent clients facing all types of serious felony crimes, including New York weapons offenses, drug crimes, as well as allegations of domestic violence and more. To learn more about how we can help you defend your freedom from the charges you face, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.