Recently, a defendant in New York appealed his convictions for possession of a controlled substance in the first degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. The defendant was charged several years ago, and at trial he was found guilty as charged in January 2017. On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court should have granted his motion to suppress incriminating evidence. Looking at the trial court’s record, however, the higher court decided to deny the defendant’s appeal.
Facts of the Case
The State of New York charged the defendant in this case when officers found illegal drugs in a jacket that he had recently discarded. By tracing the substances to the defendant, the investigators had enough information to formally charge him with criminal possession, and the defendant’s case later went to trial.
Before trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officers had no legal right to search the jacket where they found the drugs. The trial court denied this motion, and the jury therefore heard evidence of the drugs inside the clothing’s pocket. After receiving his guilty verdict and subsequent sentence, the defendant promptly filed an appeal.
On appeal, the defendant’s primary argument was that the officers did not have the right to search through the jacket where they found the illegal substances. Because of constitutional protections that protect people against unreasonable searches argued the defendant, he should have had the right to privacy in his own jacket pockets.
Examining the facts of the case, the higher court ultimately disagreed with the defendant. The jacket, said the court, was discarded, meaning it was no longer on the defendant’s person. Because the defendant had thrown the jacket out, and because it was not in his physical possession, the defendant did not have any grounds on which he could challenge the introduction of the incriminating evidence. In legal terms, then, the defendant lacked “standing” to pursue his motion to suppress. Typically, a defendant who abandons property no longer has a reasonable expectation of privacy in that object, even if they previously had such an expectation.
The court then denied the defendant’s appeal, affirming his original convictions. As a result, the defendant’s sentence will also remain intact.
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