In criminal trials, issues involving the admissibility of evidence often comes down to a fine matter of law. The authority of an officer to stop a vehicle or a person is restricted by articulable reasonable suspicion. A New York Drug Crime Lawyer said that is a suspicion that can be put in to words that would lead a reasonable and prudent law enforcement officer given his training and experience, to believe that a crime is afoot. Case law has provided a further detail as far as the seizure or stop conducted by a police officer on a citizen. Whether the person is on foot or in a vehicle, if they flee upon sight of the readily obvious police officer, there is an immediate impression of a guilty mind. A guilty mind is also call mens rea. The evidence of flight when an officer attempts to initiate a traffic stop is also evidence of mens rea in a crime. This flight can become probable cause to make an arrest. Probable cause is that set of facts or circumstances that would lead a reasonable and prudent person given the same set of facts or circumstances to believe that a crime, is, has, or will be committed and that the person of interest, is involved in that crime.
However, if the court finds that the officer failed to show articulable reasonable suspicion, then the vehicle or person stop, is considered an illegal seizure. Any evidence of any crime that is discovered as a result of an illegal seizure is inadmissible in court based on the exclusionary rule. The evidence becomes fruit of the poisonous tree unless the police officers can demonstrate that the evidence would have inevitably been discovered anyway.
A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said that on September 16, 1975, at around one in the afternoon, an apartment building superintendent’s wife, noticed a man who was dressed in a white suit loitering around the back entrance to the building. She noticed that he glanced around in a furtive manner before entering the building located at 55 Lenox Road in Rockville Centre, Long Island. Around twenty minutes after she first noticed the man, she heard footsteps in an empty apartment above her own. She went upstairs to investigate and observed the man whom she had seen earlier, testing door knobs looking for unlocked apartments to enter. She went downstairs and notified her husband who went to the lobby and found the man just leaving the building. He noticed that the man had a large bunch of keys in his hand and he could hear more in his pocket.
He followed the prowler and came upon another apartment building superintendent walking down the street. They followed the man as he got into his car in the parking lot. The two men got in to a car belonging to the other superintendent and followed the suspect. They pulled up beside the suspect to get a better look at him. When they did, the other superintendent recognized the man as a prowler from his own building recently. A Nassau County Drug Possession Lawyer said the two men wrote down a detailed description of the man and his license plate number. The superintendent called the police and gave them a description of the man.
While the officers were taking down the information from the superintendent, another officer located the suspect still in the area. He attempted to stop the suspect and the suspect took flight. He made several evasive maneuvers in his car, including putting the car in reverse to elude the police officers. He was arrested and his attorney filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the burglary tools that were located in the suspect’s car at the time of arrest.
The County trial court suppressed the evidence because they felt that the stop was an illegal seizure because the vehicle was stopped based on a description given to the police by a civilian witness. The case was appealed by the state and the appeals court upheld the verdict to suppress. A second appeal, determined that the trial court erred in suppressing the evidence. The state met its burden of proof that the subject was exhibiting behavior that a reasonable and prudent person would believe was indicative that a crime was afoot. This is evidenced by the fact that three different individuals observed the subjects behavior and interpreted it as indicative that a crime was afoot. The description of the suspect was provided in detail and the patrol officer attempted to stop the vehicle.
When the suspect observed the police officer’s emergency lights on the marked patrol car, he took flight. He was obviously attempting to elude the police when his vehicle maneuvers were so out of the ordinary as to include driving in reverse. A Queens Drug Possession Lawyer said the final appeals court pointed out that prior case law upholds the fact that mens rea can be established at the time that the subject takes flight when he observes a police officer. In this case, the subject cannot deny that he took flight. He cannot deny that he could identify the marked patrol car with flashing lights and siren, as a police officer. His actions indicate mens rea.
Since the traffic stop of the subject was in fact, a legal seizure, the burglary tools that were ultimately recovered from the vehicle are also admissible. The appeals court found that the burglary tools were improperly suppressed by the County Court at the time of trial. Since the traffic stop was legal, the evidence is admissible. The defendant lost his motion to uphold the suppression of the evidence and a new trial that includes the evidence is ordered.
This case demonstrated how specific the law can be as it relates to the admissibility of evidence. The protection against illegal search and seizure as provided by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is taken very seriously. Under no circumstances can any evidence be used that is the product of an illegal search or seizure. The exclusionary rule ensures that all evidence that is the result of an illegal search or seizure is not admissible in court. However, in a situation like this one, where there was an abundance of probable cause to arrest the subject and conduct an administrative search of the vehicle that he was occupying; there is no doubt that the evidence should be admissible. It is not fruit of the poisonous tree.
In this case, the defendant might have had a minor argument for exclusion of the evidence if he had not attempted to elude the police officers. If that had occurred, then the officers would have only had the testimony of the superintendent. The judge has already ruled that the superintendent’s testimony was credible as to the suspicious nature of the suspect’s behavior. The superintendent knows more than anyone else what is suspicious in his building. The exclusionary rule is designed to protect the rights of all Americans in all areas. It just was not applicable in this situation. There are some exceptions to the exclusionary rule that can be of importance in criminal cases. Don’t trust your freedom and independence to the interpretation of others.