New York Defendant Unsuccessfully Argues for Suppression of Incriminating Evidence, Highlighting the Importance of Establishing Standing in Suppression Cases

Recently, in a New York criminal case involving possession of a forged instrument, the defendant argued that the lower court should have granted his motion to suppress evidence found in the car he was driving.  An officer first pulled the defendant over for speeding, and the officer found a credit card reader in the passenger seat of the car. The defendant filed a motion to suppress, which the trial court denied, and the defendant appealed. Despite the defendant’s reasoning, however, the higher court ultimately denied the defendant’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, an officer noticed the defendant driving by because he was speeding and because he ran through a red light. The officer conducted a traffic stop and ended up finding a credit card reader along with several debit cards and several blank cards in the car’s passenger seat. The State charged the defendant with criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing the police officer did not have the legal authority to seize the credit card reader when conducting the traffic stop. The lower court denied the defendant’s motion, and the defendant promptly appealed that decision.

The Decision

The lower court’s denial of the defendant’s motion was based on the fact that he did not have “standing” to pursue suppression of the evidence. A person driving a car has to be able to show that he or she has a sufficient connection to the car – for example, he must be able to show that he had permission to drive the car and that he therefore had a right to privacy within that car. Without this connection, or standing, he would not have a legal basis to challenge the officer’s seizure of the evidence.  Here the defendant did not testify and there was no evidence of any link between the vehicle and the defendant other than the fact that he was observed driving it for a short period of time.

After hearing arguments, the higher court agreed with the lower court that the defendant did not have standing to litigate the motion to suppress evidence. There was no evidence that the defendant owned the car in question – in fact, the car was unregistered. There was also no evidence that the defendant had permission to be driving the car at all. Without any evidence indicating the defendant’s connection to the car, he did not have standing and thus did not have a basis to ask the court to suppress the incriminating evidence.  It appears that this may be a case of bad lawyering because it does appear that the search that led to the seizure of the incriminating items may have been illegal and had the defense lawyer properly established standing to contest the search, perhaps the incriminating evidence would have been suppressed which would have necessitated dismissal of the indictment.

With that, the higher court affirmed the lower court’s denial of the motion to suppress, as well as the defendant’s conviction and sentence.

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