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Defendant Charged with Cocaine Possession

A man was standing in the corridor of a public housing project in Manhattan. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the housing projects are known to be a place frequented by drug dealers, drug addicts, those publicly drinking alcohol, trespassers and other persons engaged in criminal acts. Police officers have been assigned to conduct floor-by-floor patrols of the housing projects because of the prevalence of the crime in those areas.

On February 28, 2010, two veteran NYPD police officers made floor-by-floor patrol of a housing project in Manhattan. The police officers asked anyone they encounter in the housing projects their names, their addresses and even ask where they are going. When the police found persons in the corridors who are not tenants of the public housing apartment building they are patrolling, they ask for the persons reasons for being there. A New York Criminal Lawyer said they asked whether they are visiting, they asked the name and apartment number of the person they visited and they confirm with the tenant.

When the police officers encounter people who claim to be residents, they ask the people to prove their identity and prove their residence in the building by asking them for their key and asking for any identification that states their residence in the building.

At around 6:30 pm, the police saw the accused standing all by himself in the lobby as they were conducting their floor-by-floor patrol. They approached the accused and asked him what he was doing there. The accused answered that he was visiting a friend. When the police asked him the name of his friend and where he lived, the accused could not answer the police.

Immediately, the police officer arrested the accused for trespassing on NYCHA premises.

After the police placed the accused under arrest, they searched him and they were able to find hidden in his waistband 29 plastic bags of cocaine. A New York Drug Crime Lawyer said he also had on him the sum of $284.

Thereafter, the police charged the man with criminal cocaine possession and criminal trespass in the third degree. The man sought to suppress the cocaine found in his possession and to prevent it from being admitted into evidence. The trial court denied the motion to suppress.

The accused appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress. The only question before the Court was whether or not the arrest of the accused was lawful and whether or not the consequent search and seizure was unreasonable such that the cocaine found in his possession are the fruits of an unlawful arrest and an unreasonable search and seizure.

The Court held that there are four levels of police contact with ordinary people. The first level of contact involves a request for information such as a person’s name and address. The police must have a reason for requesting the information but the questioning must be in a non-threatening manner. The second level of contact involves questioning by a police officer because he has a suspicion that criminal activity is going on. The third level of contact is when the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person he approached is committing or has just committed a crime, or is just about to commit a crime. At this level, the police officer is authorized to frisk the person he is talking to. The fourth level is when the police can take the person they are speaking with and arrest them because he has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed by that person.

The Court found that there have been no reports of criminal activity in that particular housing project at the time that the police were conducting their floor-by-floor patrol. When they approached the accused, the accused was not doing anything suspicious. He was merely standing there in the lobby. A New York Sex Crime Lawyer said the police did not even verify his identify and did not ask him further which apartment he intended to visit. The Court held that his arrest was unlawful as the police had not probable cause to arrest him.

Have you been arrested all because you were in a housing project at a time when the police were conducting a patrol? Were you searched consequent to your arrest? Were there drugs found in your possession? Were you charged with criminal cocaine possession? You need to be represented by a New York City Drug Crime attorney. A New York Drug Crime lawyer can help raise the question of the legality of your arrest. A NY Drug Crime attorney can argue that the search of your person was also illegal. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates NYC Drug Crime lawyers are willing to assist and advice you. Go to any of the offices of Stephen Bilkis and Associates in the New York area today.

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