New York Court Rejects Defendant’s Motion to Suppress in Recent Gun Case

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York gun possession case, requiring the court to review the lower court’s decision denying the defendant’s motion to suppress. After reviewing the facts and applicable legal principles, the court agreed with the court below, affirming the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress a firearm that he discarded while being chased by police officers.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a confidential informant told his parole officer that “two individuals would be in a specified area in a silver or gray Pontiac and would have a firearm in the vehicle.” Police officers traveled to the location, where they saw a vehicle matching the description provided by the informant.

While the police officers were following the car, they claim that the driver failed to signal at least 100 feet before making a turn. The officers pulled over the vehicle. The defendant was in the passenger seat. The officers asked the defendant several questions, claiming that he was slow to answer and seemed nervous. The officers asked the defendant out of the vehicle and immediately held his hands behind his back.

As the defendant exited the vehicle, the officers attempted a pat-frisk, at which point the defendant fled. Just before the officers caught up to the defendant, he tossed a gun. The defendant was arrested and charged with possession of the firearm.

The Defense Motion to Suppress

In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant claimed that the officers’ stop of this vehicle was illegal, as was their decision to conduct a pat-frisk. The defendant also argued that was no reasonable basis for the pat-frisk. However, the court rejected both of the defendant’s arguments. First, the court held that the traffic stop was lawful based on Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1163 (b), which requires motorists to use a turn signal at least 100 feet before making a turn.

Next, the court went on to discuss the officer’s decision to conduct a pat-frisk. The court held that the pat-frisk was reasonable given the defendant’s slow responses, nervousness, as well as the tip provided by the confidential informant. The court explained, once the defendant took off running, the police had the right to pursue him because the defendant’s flight gave rise to reasonable suspicion justifying the officers’ pursuit.

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