In a recent opinion from a New York court involving a New York gun case, the defendant’s motion to suppress was denied. The defendant was convicted of gun possession in the third degree and filed a motion to suppress the gun found in his coat pocket during the initial 40 seconds of a traffic stop. The state appellate court denied the motion because they found that the search was not a “level three” detention and that there was reasonable suspicion of criminality.
The Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, a parole officer tipped the police officers of the defendant possibly owning a gun. Police officers conducted a traffic stop, stopping the defendant due to the defendant violating traffic laws and having a suspended license. The officers directed the defendant to exit the vehicle and an officer grabbed the defendant’s arm as he exited the vehicle.
The defendant filed a motion to suppress as evidence the gun found in his coat pocket, arguing that the traffic stop turned into a level three detention and was impermissible because the police lacked reasonable suspicion of criminality at the start. The lower court denied the motion. On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court made an error in failing to grant the motion to suppress.
The appellate court found that the defendant was not subjected to a level-three detention at any time before the police saw the gun and was only subjected to a level-two permissible inquiry. The court explained that when there is a concern for an officer’s safety, “minimal self-protective measures” are allowed. Additionally, the court explained that when an officer grabs a suspect, it does not change a stop to a level-three detention if it was objectively reasonable that the officer was concerned that the defendant might be reaching for a weapon.
Here, the officers had received a tip from the parole officer that the defendant might have a gun. Also, the defendant clutched at his side and appeared to attempt to shield the side of his body where he was keeping his gun. As a result of these facts, the court found that the officers took minimal self-protective measures and thus conducted a permissible two-level inquiry.
The court also found that this incident did not transform into a level-three detention, but that if it did it would have been justifiable because of reasonable suspicion of criminality. Because of the actions taken by the defendant (clutching at his side, shielding the side where he held the gun, attempting to leave the scene) and because of his parole status, the officers had reasonable suspicion to believe that was in possession of a gun at the time they grabbed the defendant’s arm. Overall, the court found that, considering the totality of the circumstances, the defendant failed to prove that his arrest was illegal. As a result, the appellate court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress.
Were You Arrested for Gun Possession in New York?
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