The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution is the amendment that protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures at the hands of law enforcement. This constitutional protection is typically understood to require that an officer have a warrant before conducting a search. However, over time the courts have interpreted the Fourth Amendment to include certain exceptions that allow a police officer to bypass the warrant requirement. A recent New York drug case highlighted a situation in which an officer may not be required to produce a warrant before searching someone’s vehicle for drugs.
This case involved a defendant’s failed motion to suppress after evidence was obtained during a vehicle search. In this case, after police officers approached an illegally parked car where the defendant sat in the driver’s seat, one of the officers smelled an odor that he recognized to be PCP. The officer received regular training on PCP and other drugs and had encountered the drug numerous times before. The defendant gave the officers a fake name, and the officer observed that the defendant had glassy eyes and slurred speech.
When the defendant was directed to step out of the vehicle, he made a sweeping motion with his hand, which indicated to the officer that the defendant was attempting to hide illegal contraband. The officers conducted a search of the vehicle and found a bag of cocaine and PCP-dipped cigarettes. The defendant waived his Miranda rights and confessed to possessing the cocaine.
The defendant was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree and filed a motion to suppress the PCP. The lower court denied the motion to suppress the PCP, holding that the officers had an objective and credible reason for approaching the defendant’s vehicle in the beginning due to the parking violation and that the officer had probable cause to search the vehicle once he smelled the distinct odor of PCP that he recognized from his training. Defendant appealed.
Here, the appellate court explained that officers may search a vehicle without a warrant when there is probable cause, based on objective facts and reasonable inferences, to believe that evidence will be found there. An officer has probable cause to search a vehicle when they are trained on PCP and detect PCP via smell. Here, the officer testified that he had received regular training on PCP, had allegedly encountered the drug over hundreds of times in his position, and had detected the distinct odor of the drug. As a result, the court held that the officer’s testimony sufficiently established his credentials in identifying the PCP odor and that based on the officer’s observations in addition to the officer’s credentials, the officer had probable cause for searching the vehicle without a warrant. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence from the vehicle.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to Review Your Case
The law surrounding the suppression of evidence obtained in a vehicle search can be complex, but the suppression of illegally obtained evidence can play a decisive role in a drug case. Suppressed evidence often results in the dismissal of criminal charges against a defendant. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, the dedicated New York drug crime defense lawyers at Tilem & Associates are ready to help. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling New York drug cases, in addition to weapons charges, misdemeanor and felony offenses. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, give us a call at 877-377-8666 today.