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Second Department Suppresses Evidence Because of Illegal Search

11/08/2017

Appellant Takim Newson was pulled over by the police for multiple traffic violations after veering across two lanes of traffic to run a red light.  Although the officer who testified at the suppression hearing had received a radio run 20 minutes earlier regarding a robbery, the officer did not testify that either of the car’s occupants matched the description in that radio run.  The officer asked appellant if there was anything “illegal” on him or in the vehicle, and appellant responded, “No, officer.  You can check.” 

The officer proceeded to search the back of the car, looking into a Coach bag, reviewing the photographs on a camera, and calling a phone number in a cell phone.  As a result of that search, appellant was arrested on robbery charges.  A gun was discovered in a subsequent inventory search of the car, and appellant made incriminating statements nine hours after being arrested.

The Second Department held that, although the car stop was justified by the traffic violations, “the intrusiveness of the officer’s conduct exceeded that which is permissible during a normal traffic stop” because the officer “did not testify to any suspicious actions by the defendant, nor did he testify that he felt threatened in any way or offer any other justification for asking the defendant if there was anything illegal in the vehicle.”  Furthermore, the officer’s improper question could not be justified by the suspicions he later developed as a result of his search of the car.  Therefore, the Court suppressed the items found in the car, including the gun that was recovered during the inventory search, as well as appellant’s statements.  Since the remaining evidence was insufficient to convict appellant of the robbery, weapon possession, or related charges, the Court dismissed everything except for the traffic violations.

Jenin Younes briefed and argued the case on behalf of Appellate Advocates.