In a recent opinion from a New York court involving drug possession, the defendant’s request for the court to reconsider his guilty verdict was denied. The defendant was found guilty of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree. He filed a motion to suppress evidence, arguing that the officers who found street-level PCP in his vehicle did not have probable cause to search his car. The appellate court denied the appeal because it found that the officers did, in fact, have enough reason to search the car after having smelled the PCP from outside the vehicle.
As stated in the opinion, officers in Syracuse were patrolling a high-crime area in August 2017 when they noticed a car that was parked illegally. The officers walked up to the vehicle and saw three occupants – the defendant in the driver’s seat and two other passengers. As soon as the officers approached the car, the officers smelled a “really strong chemical odor” that they recognized as PCP.
After speaking with the defendant, the officers asked the defendant to exit the vehicle. Then, the officers searched the car and found a clear plastic bag with a beige, chunky substance, which they later discovered was cocaine. The defendant waived his Miranda rights and immediately confessed to possessing the cocaine. He was indicted for criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree because of the cocaine. Later, the defendant appealed, arguing that the drugs the officers found in his car should not have been used against him in his original case.
The Court’s Decision
In his argument, the defendant did not take issue with the officers approaching him and the two other passengers – he admits he was parked illegally, and that there was reason for the officers to speak with him in the first place. The issue, according to the defendant, was that the officers needed probable cause to search the car, and it was unreasonable to find that the officers had probable cause solely based on the smell of the PCP. The defendant argued that the officers should have had more information before legally being able to search the vehicle – because the officers had nothing else to support their suspicion of the defendant besides allegedly smelling PCP in the vehicle, they did not have a strong enough reason to conduct the search.
The court disagreed. In the opinion, the court relied on testimony from the officers, who had substantial experience identifying PCP by its smell and said they were fairly confident the defendant was hiding some sort of controlled substance in the car. The court also maintained that there is a long line of cases supporting the fact that a drug-like smell can, in fact, give officers probable cause to inspect a vehicle. Because of these cases, said the court, the defendant’s argument that the officers had no probable cause was not persuasive.
Have You Been Arrested for Possession of a Controlled Substance in New York?
If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance in New York, you can file a motion to suppress incriminating evidence. At The Law Office of Mark A. Siesel, we are ready to stand by your side and fight to make sure your voice is heard. We are experienced with the legal landscape in New York and will use our experience to guide and represent you throughout the duration of your case. To protect yourself or a loved one, request a consultation by calling (914) 428-7386.