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June 17, 2013

Our Criminal Defense Lawyer Wins Suppression In New Rochelle Gun Case

By Michael H. Joseph

In a recent case, our Westchester criminal defense lawyer, Michael Litman, won a major victory in the New Rochelle Criminal Court. Our criminal defense attorneys successfully got a gun suppressed after the Court found that our client’s civil rights were violated when the Court found that the officer searched the vehicle without the driver’s consent and without probable cause.

In New York, the circumstances under which a police officer can search a vehicle is an often litigated question. New York law requires that once the officer determines that the driver’s license, insurance and registration are in proper order, they are obligated to issue a traffic ticket and allow the driver to continue on his way. For an officer to elevate the encounter to a search, there must probable cause to believe that the operator is committing a crime. While they may visually inspect the reaching areas for a weapon, to ensure officer safety, they cannot conduct a full search.

The New York Criminal Courts have recognized that once the officer asks more pointed questions that would lead the person approached reasonably to believe that he or she is suspected of some wrongdoing and is the focus of the officer’s investigation, the officer is no longer merely seeking information. This has become a common-law inquiry that must be supported by a founded suspicion that criminality is afoot.

New York Courts have also held that for a traffic stop to pass constitutional muster, the officer’s action in stopping the vehicle must be justified at its inception and the seizure must be reasonably related in scope, including its length, to the circumstances which justified the detention in the first instance. The Courts have also found that nervousness is not an indication of criminality and does not provide a basis for reasonable suspicion of criminality. Any time an intrusion on the security and privacy of the individual is undertaken with intent to harass or is based upon mere whim, caprice or idle curiosity, the spirit of the Constitution has been violated and the aggrieved party may invoke the exclusionary rule or appropriate forms of civil redress.

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