Appealing a New York Conviction Based on a Warrantless Search

A New York appellate court recently issued a decision in a criminal accused’s appeal of his kidnapping conviction. The record indicates the accused and his co-defendant allegedly kidnapped the complainant. The victim’s friends received various ransom calls, one of the friends called the police claiming that they recognized the voice as the defendant. Upon arriving at the defendant’s residence, law enforcement found the victim tied up in the garage. Police knocked on the front doors and the door leading to the second-floor apartment when the cousin identified himself as a police officer and confirmed other people were in the apartment. The police subsequently seized the phones that were used to make the ransom calls.

Based on a physical description, police stopped and questioned the accused; after identifying himself, police arrested him. The police then executed a search warrant and recovered the victim’s credit card and the defendant’s benefits card. On a motion, the defendant moved to suppress his statement to police, controvert the search warrant and suppress the physical evidence recovered from the home.

Warrantless searches are lawful if police have obtained voluntary consent from a party who possesses authority and control over the property or premises at issue. A party can establish consent by words and conduct. In this case, the court found that the People met their burden by establishing that the defendant’s cousin had requisite control over the home and provided police with authority to enter the premises. The People also cited the cousin’s testimony where he stated that he intended to help the police. In line with that finding, the court found that the cell phone seizure was lawful because it was in plain view.

Finally, the defendant argued that the statement he made to the police was made under coercion and false promises. Under the law, not all police deception meets the level of coercion. Courts will look to whether the deception was “so fundamentally unfair as to deny due process.” Generalized promises do not meet that level or create a substantial risk of false incrimination. In this case, the court found that a police statement stating that a statement would be beneficial did not meet the level of unlawful deception. In light of their findings, the court declined to suppress the evidence.

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