Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York firearms case discussing whether the police officer’s search of the defendant’s car was constitutionally sound. Ultimately, the court concluded that because the officers lacked probable cause to search the vehicle, anything they recovered as a result of the impermissible search must be suppressed.
According to the court’s written opinion, police responded to a call from the complaining witness that the defendant was threatening him. When police arrived, the defendant was in his parked car, which was out in front of the complaining witness’s home. The complaining witness told police that the defendant had threatened to kill him, and that he believed the threat was a real one because he’d seen the defendant with a gun on a previous occasion. The defendant admitted to the police that he told the complaining witness he would kill him if he came onto his property. The defendant also admitted to having a rifle back at home and being licensed to carry a firearm in Virginia, but not New York.
The officers searched the defendant, finding nothing. The officers then searched the defendant’s car and found a gun near the driver’s seat. The defendant argued that the weapon must be suppressed because the police lacked justification for the search of his truck. The trial court agreed, and the prosecution appealed.
On appeal, the prosecution argued that the officers had probable cause to search the vehicle or, in the alternative, that the search was justified based on the potential safety threat to the officers. The court rejected both arguments. First, the court explained that there was no evidence that the defendant made any threats or had a gun at the scene. Thus, there was no probable caused to believe that the defendant’s car contained any evidence of a crime.
Regarding the prosecution’s second argument, the court noted that a vehicle search is appropriate when officers are led “to the conclusion that a weapon located within the vehicle presents an actual and specific danger to the officers’ safety.” However, to make such a showing, the court explained the “likelihood of a weapon in the vehicle must be substantial and the danger to the officer’s safety actual and specific.” Here, the court concluded that nothing suggested that the officers faced any threat to their safety after the defendant was searched, and nothing was recovered. Thus, the court affirmed the granting of the defendant’s motion to suppress.
Have You Been Arrested for a New York Gun Crime?
If you have recently been arrested for the possession of a firearm in New York, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we have extensive experience handling all types of New York gun cases, including those in which a weapon is recovered in a car or home. We offer free consultations to prospective clients in which we can assess your case and explain how we can help. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule your free consultation today.