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Court Discusses Probable Cause in Drug Crime

A woman is charged with three counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon. She has moved to suppress the firearms that were seized from her and her boyfriend’s house following the issuance of a search warrant that was targeted not at her, but at her boyfriend. She contends that the search warrant violated her constitutional rights because there was an absence of probable cause to search the premises. Furthermore, there was a lack of sufficient evidence to believe that the woman’s boyfriend lived at the house and the inclusion in the warrant of a no-knock provision was unjustified.

On June 12, 2008, a police officer obtained a no-knock search warrant to search the premises of a house in New York, where the woman resides with her boyfriend. Specifically, the warrant was sought to permit a search for marijuana possession, firearms, and ammunition.

According to his warrant application, the police officer believed that the woman’s boyfriend, whom he had been trying to put on surveillance, was a marijuana dealer. The police officer obtained information from the gas and electric company that an individual identified as the woman’s boyfriend used the gas & electric utility services.

In 2008, the police officer and other police officers observed a confidential informant make a controlled buy of marijuana from the woman’s boyfriend at an undisclosed location. The observed marijuana sale (drug possession) was made from a white 2002 Hyundai bearing a New York registration that the woman’s boyfriend had driven to the site. Following the transaction, and after the woman’s boyfriend drove away, the informant walked directly to the police officer’s undercover vehicle with the marijuana he had just purchased from the woman’s boyfriend.

On the basis of the police officer’s application, the County Court Judge signed a no-knock search warrant. The police executed the search warrant on June 20, 2008. In the course of their search, the police seized a loaded 9 mm High Point semi-automatic handgun, a loaded Stoeger Arms Lama Especial .32 caliber revolver, a loaded Interarms .38 caliber revolver that previously had been reported as stolen, and marijuana. Following the seizure of the items, the woman was arrested on the pending charges.

The woman does not dispute that the police had probable cause to arrest the woman’s boyfriend for the possession and sale of marijuana. Clearly, the police officer’s personal observations of the woman’s boyfriend selling marijuana to a confidential informant provided the police with ample probable cause for the woman’s boyfriend’s subsequent arrest.

The woman argues instead that the police lacked probable cause to believe that the woman’s boyfriend sold marijuana, where he purportedly lived. Therefore, according to the woman, regardless of the existence of probable cause to justify his arrest, the police lacked probable cause to connect the woman’s boyfriend’s alleged criminal activity to his apparent residence. Accordingly, the woman contends, there was a dearth of probable cause to support the issuance of a search warrant.

The woman points out, and the Court concurs, that the warrant application is devoid of any explicit facts demonstrating a nexus of the man’s alleged criminal law activities. The warrant application contains no specific assertion that illegal drug activities were taking place at or near the Arborwood Lane. The application includes no explicit allegation that the woman’s boyfriend possessed marijuana at or near 221 Arborwood Lane. To the contrary, the only allegation in the warrant application connecting 221 Arborwood Lane to the woman’s boyfriend is that the woman’s boyfriend resides at that house.

Putting aside for a moment the woman’s second argument, namely, that the allegations supporting the identification of 221 Arborwood Lane as the woman’s boyfriend’s residence are deficient, the key legal issue is whether there was probable cause to search the woman’s boyfriend’s house for evidence of criminality simply and solely because he lived there. The Court concludes that there was.

Probable cause to search a particular place exists not only where there is sufficient information that an offense has been or is being committed at that place. Rather, probable cause exists as well where there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable belief that evidence of a crime may be found in a certain place.

Drug problems are one of the leading problems of our society, including heroin possession and cocaine possession crimes. Men and women, teens and adults are not spared from the problems brought about by drugs. If you get yourself in a lawsuit that would require the services of a NY Criminal Law Attorney or a NY Drug Crime Lawyer, you may consult them at the office of Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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