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Defendant Contends Lack of Jurisdiction for Warrant


Issues surrounding search warrants can become complicated, especially if the court that issues the search warrant is not sure if they are even able to issue a search warrant. On September 25, 2003, an associate village justice signed a search warrant for a building inspector. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the building inspector was seeking to inspect a single family home in the Village of Westbury that he believed was being used as a multiple family dwelling. He had conducted several days of observation of the dwelling and noticed that there were two entrances, one entrance into the home in the front of the house and one entrance in the back.

There were eight bicycles parked in back, and six cars parked in front. The garbage was deposited on the curb in front of the house, and more was located at the back door. The estimated garbage load was four to five times the amount that the garbage collector stated that he collected from other houses. The building inspector had received several complaints from the neighbors based on the number of people who were living in the dwelling. The estimate was around 17. The building inspector, who had previously worked in a different village, was familiar with obtaining search warrants in his previous village. He had attempted to inspect the property on numerous occasions and he had been denied entry. He counted the number of people going in and out of the residence. The cars were registered to that address, but they had owners with several different last names.

The justice authorized the warrant for a police officer of Nassau County. The warrant specifically detailed that the evidence to be collected was to be limited to photographs of evidence that the house had been converted into a multiple family dwelling. A New York Criminal Lawyer said when the warrant was served, it was served on the house at six in the morning. Several of the people who were living in the house were only partially clothed. The officers took photographs documenting the locks on each room that denoted private living quarters inside the single family dwelling. They documented exposed wiring, plumbing, and other dangerous additions that had been made so that multiple people could reside in the single family home. In these pictures were some of the residents of the house, some of them were only partially clothed.

The building inspector had notified the police department of the warrant. The building inspector was accompanied on the warrant by several uniformed police officers; some remained outside the residence during the search, others came inside the residence. The officers interrogated the residents of the house and took statements from them in reference to the amount of rent that they paid, and how many people shared a room. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said the owners of the house were cited for the violations and the officers left the location. When the case came to court, the Justice who heard the case was concerned for several reasons.

He stated that his first concern was if a village court had jurisdiction to create a warrant at all. If the warrant was not valid, then the search was not valid. He was expressly concerned about the plight of illegal Hispanics who are trapped into boarding houses that are run illegally and that force them to pay large amounts to reside in slum conditions. The Justice was concerned about all of the people being evicted from this house and where they would go.

Ultimately, the justice determined that since the offenses that were committed were building code violations, the violations fell into village court. The problem was that most of the village justices are not lawyers. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said the determination was made that any search warrants needed to be obtained by full time magistrates who had legal training and not by village justices. The evidence was suppressed and the case referred for processing.

Stephen Bilkis & Associates is a Criminal Lawyer with convenient offices throughout New York and the Metropolitan area our attorneys are available to help you. Village Court issues are confusing. Our Nassau Criminal lawyers can provide you with advice to guide you through any situation.

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