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Defense Takes Issue with Warrantless Search

A man was convicted on his guilty plea of marijuana possession in the first degree. His motion to cover up the evidence of marijuana cultivation seized by state police on a search warrant was denied. A New York Drug Crime Lawyer said the appellate division generally affirmed in a memorandum agreeing with the court’s conclusion that the man’s act of posting no trespassing signs about every 20 to 30 feet around the perimeter of his property, which consisted of 165 acres of rural, hilly, undeveloped, uncultivated fields and woodlands except for the man’s cultivation of marijuana, did not establish an expectation of privacy cognizable under the right to privacy protection of the constitution.

On execution of the search warrant, the state police with assistance of sheriff’s department searched the property owned by the man. The application for the warrant included the in camera testimony of a private citizen, who had shot and wounded a deer and followed it onto the man’s property. The private citizen observed what appeared to be the remnants of a marijuana growing operation. When the private citizen entered the property again, he testified that he saw approximately 50 marijuana plants under cultivation. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said the private citizen reported the information to the state police and gave a leaf that he obtained from one of the plants on the property. Consequently, an investigator accompanied the private citizen to the site where the investigator personally observed the plants. None of the entries of the Investigator or the private citizen was with the man’s knowledge or permission.

The warrant application contained tax maps showing that the property belonged to the man and a report of an anonymous telephone tip that the man was growing marijuana on the said property. The court then found that the property was noticeably marked with no trespassing signs which is clearly visible and indeed observed by not only the private citizen but the police units entering the property. The residence consisted of a mobile home with no utilities which located near the road. The marijuana plants were not found within the area around the man’s mobile home but some 300-400 yards away.

Apparently attaching significance to the illegality of activities sought to be kept private like growing marijuana, rather than the nature of the efforts to assure privacy, the court held that the man’s expectations of privacy were not legitimate.

The law had recognized the owner’s right to prohibit entry on land in the posting provisions of the environmental conservation law and in general obligations law, enacted for the purpose of dissuading landowners from posting their property and encouraging them to admit the public. Despite the arguments, the court did not dismiss so lightly the fact that the police were violating the man’s property rights and committing criminal law and civil trespass by entering the land. Significantly, the court in suppressing the evidence has adverted to the illegal conduct of the police in obtaining the evidence through a trespass on private property.

Subsequently, the appellate division vacated the guilty plea of the man and the man’s motion to suppress the evidence is granted. Further, the indictment is also dismissed.

In connection with the abovementioned case of the man, another case related to the unreasonable searches and seizures.

A five-member team from the auto crime division arrived at a vehicle dismantling operation to conduct a random warrantless inspection of the premises. A Nassau County Drug Possession Lawyer said that upon their arrival, the members of the team entered the business’s front office, where they identified themselves as police officers and announced that they were present to perform an administrative inspection. Upon the officers’ request, the owner and operator of the business produced various permits and vehicle dismantler’s license. Two of the officers then proceeded to the premises’ yard, where they randomly selected vehicle identification numbers from several auto parts. After entering the numbers into a mobile computer located in their patrol car, the officers discovered that two of the parts were from automobiles which had been reported stolen. The owner was then ordered to produce his so-called police book, in which entries relating to the purchase of vehicle parts were required to be recorded. After it was ascertained that the owner’s police book did not contain the required entries pertaining to the stolen parts, the owner was placed under arrest. A detailed search of the premises, subsequently conducted pursuant to a search warrant, revealed some 35 other automobile parts which had also been reported stolen.

Based on records, the Supreme Court held that vehicle and traffic law, which authorizes the police to conduct random warrantless searches of vehicle dismantling businesses to determine whether such businesses are trafficking in stolen automobile parts, and it does not violate the fourth amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The owner was thereafter charged with multiple counts of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree. rior to trial, he moved to cover up the physical evidence which had been seized from his vehicle dismantling business. A Queens Drug Possession Lawyer said in support of his motion, the owner argued that the police violated the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures contained in article. The court agreed and granted the man’s motion to suppress.

On appeal, a divided appellate division reversed the decision. Noting that the Supreme Court had already upheld the legal provisions for warrantless administrative searches of vehicle dismantling businesses against the fourth amendment challenge and the appellate division found no reason to reach a different conclusion under the article of the state constitution.
Based on records, privacy is without question and it is an important constitutional and societal value. However, the nature and scope of the privacy attribute at issue, and the persons or entities entitled or intended to be within the field of the state protection. It should be analyzed in the concrete application and consequences of the peculiar cases. Those are not cases dealing with a general right to privacy and associated right to be left alone. Rather, the fourth amendment cases should be analyzed in their proper analytical framework which consists of the reasonable, legitimate, cognizable expectation of privacy in a traditional criminal jurisprudence context. The court has failed to analyze the privacy right in the proper setting, and that is one of our principal differences with the court’s approach.

Further, the legislature has determined that the auto dismantling industry needs close administrative supervision and regulation. The legislative memorandum filed in support of vehicle and traffic law which clearly reflects the objective underlying the ruling that to provide a system of record keeping so that vehicles can be traced through junk yards and to assure that such junk yards are run by legitimate businesses rather than by auto theft rings. Most other legislatures have also judged it necessary to adopt similar law permitting warrantless inspections of the records and inventories of vehicle dismantlers and automobile junkyards .The court today points to no history or tradition of the state creating a peculiar state or local concern warranting extra state privacy protections to such commercial operations, or that vehicle dismantlers in state have historically expected or been accorded greater protection than that afforded by the Supreme Court in previous cases to the rest of the nation.

Apparently, the order was reversed and the case was remitted to the appellate division for further proceedings.

The broad concept of law and lot of opinions from different legislature makes it harder for most people to understand it. Most of us need guidance especially when we are in trouble with the law. The NY Drug Crime Lawyer can provide you a better fight in court. The New York Criminal Attorneys at Stephen Bilkis and Associates can also be your most trusted ally in your court case.

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