New York Court Discusses Validity of Search Based on Defendant’s Admission to Possessing Synthetic Cannabinoids

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York drug case discussing the validity of the search that resulted in the discovery of narcotics. The case required the court to discuss the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and whether they necessitated suppression of the evidence seized by police.

Police must follow the requirements of the United States and New York constitutions when investigating crime and making arrests. If they fail to do so, or otherwise violate a defendant’s rights, any evidence they obtain cannot be used against the defendant at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was under investigation when he admitted to the police that he had synthetic cannabinoids in his home. Under New York law, the possession of synthetic cannabinoids was not illegal under criminal statutes, however, it was a violation of the State Sanitary Code. Relying on the defendant’s admission, police officers secured a search warrant to search the defendant’s home. Upon doing so, police recovered morphine tablets and brass knuckles, both of which are illegal to possess.

The defendant was charged with weapons and drug offenses. Before trial, he filed a motion to suppress the drugs and weapon, arguing that the warrant was not properly issued because his statement that he had synthetic cannabinoids did not justify the search. Specifically, a search warrant must be based on a determination that there was probable cause to believe that the subject of the warrant violated the law. Because the possession of synthetic cannabinoids is not illegal, the defendant claims that his statement did not provide a basis for the search.

The court disagreed, and affirmed the defendant’s conviction. The court began by noting that the New York Penal Code does not make the possession of synthetic cannabinoids illegal. However, the court went on to explain that the State Sanitary Code makes it “unlawful for any individual . . . to possess, manufacture, distribute, sell or offer to sell any synthetic phenethylamine or synthetic cannabinoid.” From there, the court explained that a violation of the State Sanitary Code “shall have the force and effect of law and the non-compliance or non-conformance with any provision thereof shall constitute a violation.” Thus, according to the court, a search warrant could be based on the perceived belief that the defendant possessed synthetic cannabinoids.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York Drug Crime?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a New York drug crime, contact the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. Even first-time drug offenses can have a serious and long-lasting impact on your ability to live your life the way you want to live it. At Tilem & Associates, we have extensive experience representing clients who are facing all types of serious New York felony crimes, including drug possession and distribution. To learn more about how we can help you defend your freedom against the charges you are facing, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation with one of the knowledgeable attorneys at Tilem & Associates.

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