As we have discussed many times, experienced criminal defense lawyers know, that seeking suppression of evidence can often be the best defense to a crime charging possession (of drugs, guns or other illegal items). Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun possession case. The case required the court to determine if the trial court properly granted the defendant’s motion to suppress. Ultimately, the court concluded that the police officers lacked probable cause to arrest the defendant, and affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress. In this case, both the trial Court and the Appellate Court concluded that the police lacked probable cause to arrest someone who was found to be in possession of a handgun magazine. It is important to note however that had this case been decided in New York City, where the administrative code of the City of New York makes it a crime to possess handgun magazines, the results may have been different.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, police received a call reporting a dispute at a local bar that possibly involved a gun. Upon arrival, police spoke to the bartender who told them that the defendant was the one suspected of having a gun. Police patted the defendant down, discovering that he had two ammunition clips in his pockets.
Police then arrested the defendant. A post-arrest search revealed no weapons, but the defendant’s car – which was parked across the street – was towed and impounded. The defendant was read his Miranda rights and consented to a search of the vehicle. While searching the trunk of the car, police recovered a stolen .45 caliber handgun.
The defendant filed a motion to suppress the gun, arguing that the police lacked probable caused to arrest him and that his consent to search the car was premised on the illegal arrest. After the prosecution presented its case, the defense rested without calling a witness. At that point, the prosecution attempted to re-open the motion to play a 911 call which, the prosecutor claimed, would provide additional support for their argument that the police had probable cause to arrest. The trial court denied the prosecution’s request to re-open the motion and granted the defendant’s motion to suppress. The prosecution appealed.
On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion. The court explained that the discovery of the ammunition clips did not create probable cause to arrest the defendant. The court went on to explain that the allegations of third parties who reported hearing the defendant say that he had a gun but never saw him with a weapon did not add to the probable cause. Thus, the police were not justified in their arrest of the defendant.
The court also held that the trial court was acting within its discretion to deny the prosecution’s request to re-open the motion for the presentation of additional evidence.
Have You Been Arrested and Charged with Gun Possession?
If you have recently been charged with a New York gun crime, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we have decades of combined experience representing individuals charged with all types of serious misdemeanor and felony crimes across New York. We offer free consultations to discuss your case and how we can help you fight against the charges you are facing. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to speak with an attorney today.