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Court Hears Motion To Supress Search Warrant

On September 25, 2003, the Associate Village Justice of the Supreme Court, issued a search warrant directed to “any police officer of the County of Nassau.” A New York Criminal Lawyer said the search warrant found that there is probable and reasonable cause for the issuance of the warrant to make a search with the inspector and his agents, between 09/25/03 and 10/02/03 in the hours between 6:00 A.M. and 9:00 P.M. of the entire premises in 335 Princeton Street, Westbury, NewYork. The warrant categorically states that the seizure of the evidence shall be limited to the taking of still photographs and videotape pictures of the inside and outside of the premises.

The Senior Building Inspector of the Village of Westbury believed that the subject premises has been used or is being used as a two (2) family dwelling and the cellar is being used as an illegal apartment dwelling in violation of sec. 79-2, sec. 83-6, sec. 112-7, sec. 184-4, sec. 248-6 A and sec. 248-283 of the code of the Village of Westbury and NewYork State Multiple Dwelling Law sec. 30 and sec. 34. A Supervisor in the Department of Public Works testified that the garbage generated from the home was 3 to 4 times the normal amount at every pick up.

Subject to the defendant’s motion to suppress, the parties stipulated to the receipt into evidence of the “return” on the warrant indicating what was seized during the search.
The return on the warrant revealed that it was executed at 6 a.m. on September 26, 2003 while it was still dark. Statements were taken from occupants where, among other things, all those interviewed indicated that they paid a total of a minimum of $2,275 per month, in the aggregate, for rent. A New York Criminal Lawyer said that photos were taken of people inside the home, some partially clad. Photos were also taken from outside the home through broken windows. There were many police and inspectors during the search.

The defendants were charged with various violation of the Village Code.

The issue to be resolved is whether or not the Village Court has the legal authority to issue a search warrant concerning an alleged building or zoning code violation? If so, is there probable cause for the search and is the warrant overly broad?

The Supreme Court held while it has authority to issue a search warrant were a building code violation has been alleged, it stated that the search was overbroad and beyond the scope of the warrant or even what might have been authorized. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said that the Court opined that while the intention may have been to insure the safety of the inspectors, the exact opposite result may have occurred under these circumstances. While conducting this building inspection under the color of darkness, real danger may have awaited the inspectors from unsuspecting occupants surprised by the invasion of their premises. The Court stated that this was not a drug crime or one where a fugitive was to be apprehended. It was one to examine the interior of a premise but evolved into one where the search could have been extremely dangerous. Under these circumstances, this Court cannot approve of the actions undertaken here or the over-breadth of the warrant.

The Court ruled that if the Building Inspector here stumbled upon ecstacy during his search then he could not make an arrest for that violation of the criminal law and this Court would have no jurisdiction over a cocaine possession case. A building inspector executing a warrant may then become an unwitting participant in a drug case or perhaps the victim of violence.

Accordingly, the Court said that health inspections are important. But they are hardly more important than the search for narcotics peddlers, rapists, kidnappers, murderers, and other criminal elements. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said the essential point is that criminal law enforcement typically is directed toward aggressive conduct, most often occurring in public places, which usually leaves a trail of discernible facts, so that the traditional probable cause test has not prevented an acceptable level of criminal law enforcement.

We understand how difficult it is to safeguard your privacy and security mandated by law. Let our New York Criminal Lawyer at Stephen Bilkis & Associates determine these rights for you. It has offices strategically located within the New York Metropolitan area including Corona, NY.

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