Recently, a New York appellate court issued an opinion in a gun case involving a defendant who was shot twice and then was arrested for possession of a firearm. At trial, the court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress. On appeal, the defendant argued that the officers who found the gun infringed upon his right to privacy by entering a residential building. The court disagreed, saying there was no legitimate privacy right and therefore that the evidence was obtained legally.
One night in June 2017, officers received a call for a domestic disturbance at the defendant’s home. Shortly thereafter, the officers caught sight of the defendant on the second floor of his home. They watched him open his window and throw a black backpack into the window of a building next door. He then exited the home onto the porch to talk to the police officers. The defendant told them that he had a gun several times.
Then, the defendant took out a gray-colored object. As he did, officers shot him twice. While he was being taken to the hospital, officers found the backpack, opened it up, and searched its contents. Inside they found a rifle and a smaller bag containing ammunition. Later, when interviewed by a detective, the defendant admitted he threw a black backpack out the window. He maintained, however, the backpack only had marijuana in it – he denied any existence of a rifle or of ammunition. The defendant was later convicted of criminal possession of a weapon, as well as several domestic violence offenses.
The Court’s Decision
On appeal, the defendant argued that his guilty verdict was unreasonable. He said that when the officers found the backpack with the gun, they were entering a private property without permission. The officers, therefore, had no right to recover the backpack and the gun, and the incriminating evidence should be suppressed. It made sense, said the defendant, for him to have an expectation of privacy, and the officers violated that right by entering the building without his consent.
The court rejected the defendant’s argument. According to the court’s opinion, the evidence illustrated that the defendant didn’t actually live in either of the two residential buildings. Thus, he didn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the building where he threw the backpack.
Additionally, the officer who entered the building to recover the backpack explained that the building’s doors were open. Thus, the court found that it was reasonable for the officer to believe he could enter the building without anyone’s permission. The court said that because there was no indication that this building was a private residence, the officer made an informed decision to enter the building and recover the backpack.
Regarding the backpack, the court found that although though the bag belonged to the defendant, he gave up his possessory right (as well as his expectation of privacy in its contents) when he tossed it out the window. Thus, the court rejected the defendant’s appellate issues and his conviction and sentence were affirmed.
Are You Facing Criminal Charges in New York for Possessing a Weapon?
If you have been charged with New York gun crime, don’t give up hope. There may be defenses you can raise to fight your case. At The Law Office of Mark A. Siesel, our New York criminal defense attorneys will work tirelessly to ensure that your voice is heard and that your arrest impacts your future as little as possible. We will take the time to walk you through your options and figure out what course of action to take so that you receive the best possible outcome. To learn more, and to schedule a free and confidential consultation, call us at (914) 428-7386. You can also connect with us through our online contact form.