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Court Discusses if Illegal Seizure Took Place


On the night of April 26, 1974, two Nassau County police officers were working undercover in plainclothes on a burglary sting in a well-lit shopping and entertainment area in Wantach, Long Island. There had been several burglaries in the area and they were attempting to apprehend the suspects. While they were watching, they observed a Buick driving slowly down the street. The vehicle slowed down perceptibly in front of a bar and all three of the occupants turned to look at the windows of the establishment. The vehicle proceeded farther down the street to a stop sign. The vehicle stopped at the sign and again, all of the occupants turned to examine the windows of another bar on the side of the road. A New York Drug Crime Lawyer said the officers considered this behavior to be consistent with the behavior of a person “casing” a building before attempting to burglarize it. They initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle.

Upon stopping the vehicle, the officers requested that the driver provide his driver’s license. He advised that he did not have a driver’s license. The officers requested the registration on the vehicle and the subjects stated that they did not have it. The vehicle was owned by the mother of one of the passengers. The men were later discovered to have her permission to drive the car. The occupants of the car were asked to exit the vehicle. When they were outside of the vehicle, the officers executed a terry stop and frisk of them. One of the officers felt a suspicious bulge in the pocket of one of the passengers. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said when he retrieved the items, they proved to be bullets. A subsequent search of the area within the subjects immediate control, led the officers to find a gun concealed under the front seat of the car.

The question of law in this case is whether the stop of the car was justified or was it an illegal seizure. The rules of law that dictate when an officer can stop a car are clearly documented in statutory law. It states that an officer may stop a vehicle that he observes committing a crime. In absence of an immediate crime, if the officer has articulable reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime is afoot, he may stop the vehicle to investigate. In this case, the officers stated that they had merely seen the occupants glance at two bars as they drove down the street. The fact that they stopped twice is not relevant since one of those stops was at a stop sign.

The officer who executed the stop testified, that he just knew that a crime was about to happen. The justices note that the officer’s instincts were probably correct, but that the officers responded too quickly. They state that the officers would have done better to observe the car for a longer amount of time to determine what the occupants were up to. A Queens Drug Possession Lawyer said that under the circumstances, to claim that driving down the road and glancing at bars would be enough to satisfy the requirement for articulable reasonable suspicion would be a reach. The justices overturned the verdict based on the fact that the stop of the vehicle constituted an illegal seizure on the part of the officers involved.

The defendant was released based on the overturned verdict as far as the gun crime was concerned. However, he was on probation at the time of the traffic stop. His proximity to the gun and the circumstances involved in the traffic stop were enough to place him in violation of his probation. His case was remanded back to the courts for a trial of fact as it relates to his violation of probation.

A Stephen Bilkis & Associates with Nassau County Criminal Lawyer can help you if you are arrested. They have convenient offices throughout New York and Metropolitan area. A Nassau County Arrest Lawyer can provide you with advice and protect your rights. Without a Nassau County Possession of a Weapon Lawyer, you could lose your freedom

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