In a recent gun case in New York, the court denied the defendant’s appeal to suppress incriminating evidence. The defendant argued that the officers who originally found the gun on his person were unreasonable in the way they stopped and searched him. The court disagreed, siding with the police and affirming the original guilty verdict.
Facts of The Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was stopped by police officers one evening in September 2020. On the night of the incident, officers noticed the defendant because they had recently received a call while patrolling the area telling them to search for a Black male with a white t-shirt and a black backpack. Allegedly, pedestrians had seen a person fitting this description shooting a gun at approximately 10:30pm that same night.
When the officers arrived at the street corner where they had been summoned, they noticed several Black men, but only one Black man with both a white t-shirt and a black backpack. They stopped the man, who later became the defendant in this case. The officers removed the defendant’s backpack, opened it, looked inside, and found a handgun that could have been used in the shooting that had happened a few minutes prior. The officers then proceeded to handcuff the defendant and take him into custody.
At trial, the defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm. On appeal, the defendant argued that the handgun should not have been used as evidence against him at court: it was unreasonable for the officers to stop him and look in his bag, which was his private property and was not open for the officers to search.
The court disagreed with the defendant, deciding that it was, in fact, reasonable for the officers to stop him on the sidewalk and search his backpack. The court focused on two parts of the stop to conclude that the officers’ actions were reasonable. First, the court discussed the stop itself. It was fine for the officers to choose the defendant as the person to stop because his clothing and backpack perfectly matched the description of the shooter. He was the only person in the immediate vicinity who matched the description, and because of this, the officers had reasonable suspicion to believe that the defendant might be in possession of a gun.
Second, the court focused on the officers’ search of the backpack, relying on “safety considerations” to determine that it was legal for the officers to look in the bag. It was reasonable for the officers to fear for the safety of themselves and of the people around them; because of this fear, the search of the backpack was valid.
Accordingly, the court affirmed the original verdict and denied the defendant’s appeal.
Are You Facing Gun Charges in New York?
If you have been charged with illegal possession of a firearm in New York, it is important that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. At the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel, we are committed to looking at all of the evidence in your case to determine the full scope of legal options at your disposal. As a team, we have litigated cases in state and federal courts in New York since 1986; our commitment to zealously defending our clients has not wavered, and we are ready to amplify your voice. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at (914) 428-7386.