In a March 2023 case before a New York appellate court, the defendant asked the court to find that he was arrested unlawfully by two officers during a traffic stop and that therefore the evidence should be suppressed. The defendant had been charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, which in this case meant the officers thought he had forged credit cards that he intended to use for fraudulent purposes. On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court improperly found that there was probable cause to arrest him. The higher court, however, agreed with the lower court’s decision and denied the defendant’s appeal.
Facts of the Case
According to the decision, officers were on patrol one evening when they noticed the two defendants driving by in a Nissan Maxima. Apparently, the officers saw the defendants’ car switch lanes without signaling, so they put on their lights and conducted a traffic stop. After a few minutes of questioning, the officers realized that the car was actually a rental car, but upon calling the rental company, the officers learned that the car was not rented under either of the defendants’ names.
Looking into a window of the car, one of the officers noticed several dozen credit cards in an open plastic bag. Based on the officer’s training, he suspected this kind of packaging indicated that the credit cards were stolen. The officers then arrested the defendants and criminally charged them.
One of the defendants filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the credit cards. According to him, the officers were unjustified in arresting him in the first place – they had no reason to suspect he was participating in criminal activity. Because the officers lacked the necessary justification for the arrest, the defendant asked the lower court to suppress the resulting evidence. The lower court denied this motion, and the defendant appealed.
On appeal, the court ultimately found that the officers had enough reason to believe the defendant might have been participating in criminal activity. The officers involved in this case were trained to be on the lookout for fraudulent activity, and the bundle of credit cards in the plastic bag made the officers suspicious. In addition, the traffic violation was enough reason for the officers to pull the defendants over in the first place, making all of their interactions with the defendants acceptable under the law.
Thus, said the higher court, the original arrest was valid, and the lower court’s decision not to suppress the evidence was to be kept in place.
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