The defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the fifth degree in connection with his purchase of cocaine from another individual. At sentencing, the court suspended the defendant’s driver’s license for a period of six months, in accordance with the Vehicle and Traffic Law because the defendant’s conviction was drug-related.
On appeal, the defendant argues that the court improperly suspended his driver’s license because Vehicle and Traffic Law provides for such suspensions where one is convicted of the crimes defined in article 220 or 221 of the Penal Law, and he was not convicted under either article.
At the outset, it is not the Penal Law, but the Vehicle and Traffic Law which requires construction in this case. It is well settled that suspension or revocation of a driver’s license is a civil, not a criminal, sanction. Thus, the statute at issue is construed so as to give it a sensible and practical over-all construction, which is consistent with and furthers its scheme and purpose and which harmonizes all its interlocking provisions.
The purpose of former Vehicle and Traffic Law was to continue State eligibility for the full amount of federal highway funds by complying with U.S. Code. Under the U.S. Code, the Federal government enacted legislation to withhold Federal highway funds from any State that has not enacted a law that requires in all circumstances, or requires in the absence of compelling circumstances warranting an exception the revocation, or suspension of at least 6 months, of the driver’s license of any individual who is convicted of any drug offense. Drug offense is defined as any criminal offense which proscribes the possession, sale, transfer, or the attempt or conspiracy to possess, sell, or transfer any substance the possession of which is prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act. Therefore, the defendant’s admission that he conspired to possess cocaine was a drug offense which warranted suspension of his driver’s license.
In another cocaine possession legal action, an appeal was made by the defendant from a judgment of the Suffolk County Court convicting him of two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. The appeal brings up for review the denial of that branch of the defendant’s omnibus motion which was to suppress physical evidence.
Two New York State Police Troopers observed the defendant driving in a reckless manner, at very high speeds, upon the Southern State Parkway at 4:00 A.M. As the defendant left the parkway, the Troopers stopped his car, approached with guns drawn, directed him to exit from his car, and immediately conducted a search of his person, informing him that he was under arrest for reckless driving. A search of the defendant’s pockets disclosed several foil packets which contained a white powdered substance. The subsequent search of the interior of the automobile revealed a closed brown, paper lunch bag which was found to contain a plastic bag holding more of a white powdered substance. Subsequent laboratory analysis confirmed that some of the material found in the paper bag was cocaine.
On appeal, the defendant contends that the search of his person and the automobile was improper and that the fruits of this search should have been suppressed. In this regard he alleges that the State Troopers used his reckless driving as a pretext to conduct the illegal search, where the alternative of issuing a summons was available to them.
The Court of Appeals has indicated that, upon an arrest for a traffic offense, a full-blown search is not justified where the arrest was unnecessary because an alternative summons was available, or because the arrest was a pretext. The testimony adduced at the suppression hearing demonstrates that the State Troopers exercised no discretion in deciding to arrest and search the defendant and, in fact, immediately upon alighting from their patrol car, were determined to arrest and search the defendant. Since no showing has been made as to why an arrest was deemed necessary or inevitable, we conclude that the arrest herein was a pretext and that an alternative summons was probably available. Accordingly, suppression of the items recovered from the defendant’s person should have been granted and the items recovered from the defendant’s automobile must also be suppressed as fruits of the initial, unlawful search.
Furthermore, inasmuch as the contraband seized constituted the entire basis for the indictment, it must be dismissed.
If those people behind the wheels are under the influence of prohibited drugs, accidents are most probable. Stephen Bilkis and Associates can help you with your legal action against drug dependents with the help of the Suffolk County Drug Possession Lawyer or the Suffolk County Cocaine Possession Attorney together with the Suffolk County Criminal Attorney.