The Warrant Requirement in New York Search and Seizure Cases

Lawyers experienced with drug cases often seek to suppress the drugs recovered by the police based upon a violation of the client’s right to not be subjected to unreasonable searches.  As a general matter, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as Article I section 12 of the New York State Constitution, prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. As a general matter, this means that police must obtain a search warrant prior to conducting a search of a person or their belongings. Even when a search warrant is obtained, however, the police must be able to show that there was probable cause of discovering some kind of criminal activity.

Given this background, someone who is arrested after a search that was based on a warrant still has the ability to challenge the search. Generally, these challenges claim that the warrant was issued on insufficient facts or that the search exceeded the scope of the warrant.

A recent New York drug possession case illustrates the type of analysis courts use when reviewing a search warrant.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant allegedly sold cocaine to police in a series of undercover drug buys. As a result of the buys, the officers obtained a search warrant to search the defendant’s home. When the officers arrived at the defendant’s home, they saw the defendant pull off in a minivan. Later, police pulled the defendant over after he rolled through a stop sign. The police testified that the defendant was acting unusual during the traffic stop. Specifically, he was squirming around as though he had something in his pants.

The police searched the defendant’s car and found cocaine in the driver’s seat and on the driver’s floorboard. The police then went back to the defendant’s home, searched it, and found more evidence of drug paraphernalia. During the search, however, the defendant continued to squirm and eventually complained of being short of breath. The police called an ambulance.

When the ambulance arrived, the defendant initially denied an officer’s requests to search his person. Later, however, the defendant allowed himself to be searched but stopped officers when they began to search his pants. The police noted that the defendant would angle his buttocks away from them, attempting to keep his buttocks out of sight.

The police began to think that the defendant was hiding drugs somewhere in his pants area, and they applied for a search warrant based on this belief. The warrant stated the police had probable cause to believe that the defendant was hiding drugs in or upon his body. The warrant was approved, and an x-ray was ordered. As a part of the x-ray, a visual inspection was conducted of the defendant’s body cavities, and it was discovered that he had secreted cocaine in his anus.

The defendant was charged and convicted of possession after a judge denied his motion to suppress the cocaine seized from his body. The defendant appealed, arguing that the police did not have probable cause to believe that there were drugs in his body and that the warrant’s description of where the narcotics were alleged to be was not sufficiently specific. The court, however, rejected both of the defendant’s claims and affirmed his conviction. The court explained that, given the facts known to the officers, there was probable cause to issue the warrant. Additionally, the warrant stated that the narcotics were believed to be “in or upon” the defendant’s body, which permitted the search that was conducted.

Have You Been Arrested in New York?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a drug crime or another offense in the New York City area, you should call the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent those charged with serious New York felony and misdemeanor crimes, demanding that our clients’ rights are respected. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.

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