New York Court Suppresses Gun Found During Inventory Search of Defendant’s Vehicle

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York gun case discussing the concept of an inventory search. An inventory search is a type of search, usually conducted by police officers or tow-truck drivers, that is performed to determine what is in a vehicle before the searching party takes control of the vehicle. The purpose of an inventory search is to identify what is inside a vehicle, to limit the possible liability should a dispute later arise about something in the vehicle coming up missing. Inventory searches are only permissible when conducted for a non-investigatory purpose.

The Facts of the Case

The court’s recitation of the facts giving rise to the case was brief. However, it appears that the defendant was arrested after he had parked his car “on the corner.” The court’s opinion does not explain what the initial arrest was for. However, after the defendant was arrested, police officers decided to impound the defendant’s vehicle. Before impounding the vehicle, police searched the car, finding a weapon.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress, which was denied by the trial court. The defendant then entered a guilty plea, preserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.

On appeal, the defendant renewed his argument that the inventory stop was illegal. The appellate court agreed, reversing his conviction. The court noted that, after a driver is arrested, police do not have the automatic right to impound the vehicle, explaining “police may impound the car, and conduct an inventory search, where they act pursuant to reasonable police regulations relating to inventory procedures administered in good faith.”

Here, the court held that the police failed to show that impounding the defendant’s car was lawful. The court explained that the only evidence presented by the prosecution was that the defendant’s car was parked on the corner. There was no testimony that the car was in an illegal parking space, or that there were any posted time-limits on how long a vehicle could be parked in the space. The court also held that the officer’s testimony that the vehicle was used in the commission of a crime supported the fact that they impounded the car for investigatory purposes. The court also noted that the prosecution failed to present any evidence of the police department’s impounding procedures and whether the officer who decided to impound the car complied with those procedures.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York Gun Crime?

If a police officer recently arrested you after searching your vehicle, you may be able to suppress any evidence they found through a motion to suppress. At the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel, we aggressively represent clients facing all types of possessory offenses, including New York gun possession offenses, drug crimes, and more. Our West Chester criminal defense attorneys stay up-to-date on all legal developments to ensure our clients receive the representation they need and deserve throughout the entire process. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 914-224-3086. You can also reach us through our online form.