The Pat Down Search In Drug Cases
Our Westchester criminal defense lawyers who regularly handle drug cases in the criminal courts of White Plains, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Harrison, Port Chester, Rye, Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant, Mount Kisco, Tarrytown, Irvington, Sleepy Hollow, Dobbs Ferry, Elmsford, Scarsdale, Bronxville and Mamaroneck. Our drug case attorneys have seen an increase of drug prosecution cases that result from searches during traffic stops. The extent to which a vehicle can be searched has become a source of frequent litigation in the past few years. In the past few years, our criminal drug attorneys have seen an increase in traffic stop searches in the Westchester towns which have major highways that run through them.
Typically, there is a traffic stop for either a legitimate traffic violation or in cases of cars with out of state plates, especially in Yonkers and White Plains our criminal defense lawyers are seeing baseless stops. Often even if you are unlawfully stopped, if you consent to the search of a vehicle you are waiving your rights. More often, our attorneys are seeing cases where the police just pull motorists out of the vehicle and search them. Many of these searches are illegal and can result in the case being thrown out.
Often the police will lie about what happened and claim that a motorist consented when they did not. If you are being pulled over, our White Plains criminal defense lawyers recommend that you record the interaction on your I phone or other blackberry. This will provide strong evidence of what actually happened and the chances of having evidence suppressed dramatically increase where an officer is caught lying. If stopped, do not consent to a search under any circumstances. If the officer threatens to arrest your or bring the K9 units, let him. If you do consent you are possibly waiving your rights to contest the search later.
The New York State Courts have ruled that when there is no probable cause for arrest, a police officer’s search of a person is limited to a search for weapons to the extent that is necessary to ensure officer safety. This usually means a pat down on the exterior of a person’s clothes. Once any reasonable basis for the officer’s fear for his safety is abated, the officer must discontinue his search, absent any exception to the warrant requirement. In a recent case, the officer grabbed a bulge in defendant’s pocket and felt no weapon, but felt what he believed to be vials, then reached into defendant’s pocket and pulled them out, the court found it to be an illegal search and the drugs were suppressed. In another case, the Court ruled that a bulge in the defendant’s jacket that neither looked, nor felt like an identifiable weapon, but the officer believed it to be drugs, however the Court ruled that the seizure exceeded the scope of the search and was improper. Consequently, the drugs were suppressed. The New York Court has rejected the plain-touch doctrine, which holds that if the officer feels an object during a pat down that does not feel like a weapon, but some other form of contraband, the officer cannot make a further intrusion into that pocket. In another recent case, the Defendant was arrested for a minor violation, during the officer’s pat-down, he felt no weapons and did not fear for his safety, but seized vials of crack from defendant’s pockets, however there was no basis to search the pockets, and the drugs suppressed.
From our White Plains office, our drug case lawyers regularly appear in all of the Westchester County criminal Courts and regularly handle both felony and misdemeanor drug cases.