New York Court Reverses Defendant’s Conviction Based on Illegal Arrest

In either a New York drug-possession case or a New York Gun Possession case seeking suppression of the contraband can often be a defendant’s best defense.  Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in which the court reversed the defendant’s drug conviction, finding that the police did not have probable cause to arrest him. The case illustrates how police officers attempt to justify stopping a person based on nothing more than their subjective belief that the person is engaged in suspicious activity.

According to the court’s opinion, two police officers were on a routine patrol when they saw the defendant running on the sidewalk. The defendant then suddenly ran across the street, requiring several cars to slow down. The police officers decided to stop the defendant and issue a summons for disorderly conduct. As the police were approaching the defendant, they noticed he was clutching something in his pocket. Believing that the defendant had a weapon, the officers drew their weapons and ordered the defendant to place his hands in the air. The defendant complied and was frisked. The police found a knife and five small packets of cocaine.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the drugs that were recovered as a result of the search, arguing that the police officers had no reason to stop him and issue a summons for disorderly conduct.

The Court’s Opinion

The court began its opinion by discussing the relevant legal standard in cases involving a police officer’s stop of a pedestrian. The court explained that, to stop a pedestrian legally, an officer must have reasonable cause to believe that the person committed an offense in the officer’s presence. Specific to disorderly conduct, an officer must determine that the person was “intentionally or recklessly creating a substantial risk that public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm would occur.” The court emphasized that there must be some level of intent in the person’s actions before an officer is justified in conducting a stop.

Here, the court found that the officers lacked reasonable cause to believe that the defendant had committed the offense of disorderly conduct. The court explained that the defendant’s actions caused only a “momentary inconvenience,” requiring one or two cars to slow down “a little bit.” The court reasoned that this type of inconvenience was not the type of societal harm that the disorderly conduct statute was designed to protect against. Thus, the court held that the officers had no legal basis for approaching the defendant, drawing their weapons, and demanding that he stop. Because the officers’ arrest of the defendant lead to their discovery of the drugs, the court determined that the drugs must be suppressed.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York Drug Crime?

If you have recently been arrested for the possession of narcotics, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent clients who have been charged with New York drug crimes, including possession with the intent to distribute. We provide all prospective clients with a free consultation to discuss their case and how we can help them defend against the charges they face. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule your consultation today.

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