Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York gun possession case involving a police officer’s search of the defendant’s car. In a pre-trial motion to defendant argued that the officers lacked probable cause to stop his car, which ultimately led to his arrest. However, the court determined that the traffic stop was valid.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, at around 1 a.m., police officers observed the defendant driving a car without a working headlight. Police pulled over the defendant’s vehicle, at which point they smelled marijuana. The officers asked for the defendant’s information, which he provided to them. However, the officers discovered that the defendant had an open arrest warrant. The officers also saw an expandable baton in plain view.
As the officers were processing the defendant, he asked what was taking so long. The officers responded that they were waiting for the K-9 Unit to search the car. The defendant responded, “you can do that all you want, whatever’s in the car, the car’s not registered to me, my prints aren’t on it.” The police then obtained a search warrant and found a gun inside the car.
The defendant was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. In a pre-trial motion, the defendant sought to suppress the baton and his statements to the police. The defendant also challenged the search warrant, seeking to suppress the gun found in the vehicle. The trial court denied the defendant’s motions and the defendant appealed.
On appeal, the court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motions. The court explained that, from their inception, the officers’ actions were justified. First, the court pointed out that the officers had probable cause to pull the defendant over because they observed a missing headlight.
From there, the court explained that, because the trial court heard the evidence first-hand and found the prosecution’s evidence credible, the appellate court would not disturb the findings unless they were clearly unsupported by the record. However, the court determined that the trial court’s findings were not in-credible.
This case illustrates the importance of credibility in a motion to suppress. Credibility determinations made by the lower court are difficult to overcome on appeal, because the trial judge is the only party to actually see the witness testify. An appellate court’s job is to review the record to determine if there was any error below. However, an appellate court does not hear live testimony. Thus, unless there is a clear error in the lower court’s findings, an appellate court will typically defer to the lower court on issues of credibility.
Have You Been Arrested for a New York Gun Crime?
If you have recently been arrested for a gun crime in New York, the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel can help. The New York criminal defense lawyers at our firm aggressively defend our client’s rights at every stage of the process, from arrest through appeal, if necessary. We handle a wide variety of criminal cases, including New York DWI offenses. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 914-224-3086 today.