Notable Decisions and Other News

Decisions

Appellate Division Suppresses Evidence

November 26, 2014

A police officer asked Mr. Alston, a hospital patient who had suffered a stab wound to the back, for identification.  Mr. Alston told the officer that his ID was either at the security desk or that hospital personnel had taken it.  From the security desk, the officer got Mr. Alston’s property, which had been placed in a sealed envelope, opened the envelope, and found cash and a license belonging to a robbery victim.   The lower court refused to suppress the evidence, ruling that Mr. Alston had consented to the search. 

After a jury trial, Mr. Alston was convicted of 12 counts of first-degree robbery and lesser charges, and sentenced to 20 years to life.  The only evidence connecting him to the crime was the contents of the envelope and his own injury.

Today, the Appellate Division reversed, holding that the evidence from the hospital should have been suppressed.  The Court explained that Mr. Alston, a victim, retained a reasonable expectation of privacy in his property at the hospital and his ambiguous statement to the officer was not consent to search.  

Even if Mr. Alston had authorized the officer to retrieve the envelope, the court held that the search far exceeded the scope of consent because there was no evidence he had given her permission to break the envelope’s seal, take out his wallet, and remove material from the wallet.

Jenin Younes briefed and argued the case.