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Court Decides Alleged Violation of 4th Amendment Rights


In these unrelated appeals, each accused challenges the denial of suppression of vials, crack cocaine possession and other physical evidence on the ground that his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated by the warrantless police search of his car. In both cases, accused parties were travelling in a car pulled over by a police officer for a traffic violation. In each case, upon the officer’s approach to the accused parties’ car, the officer observed through the car windows an open bag containing vials and caps. A New York DWI Lawyer said trained and experienced in drug detection, the police officers recognized the vials as the type used to package crack cocaine for street transactions. For the reasons that follow, in both cases the lower courts properly found probable cause for the officers to believe the accused were using drug paraphernalia, thereby justifying the searches of the automobiles and the accused parties’ consequent arrests. Another man was subsequently indicted for criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminally using drug paraphernalia.

The screeching tires of a cream colored Audi turning onto Broadway at a high rate of speed, forcing three pedestrians to jump out of the crosswalk, caught the attention of two uniformed police officers sitting in their marked police car. The officers followed the Audi south on Broadway, turning on their siren and flashing lights as the distance between the Audi and the police car narrowed. After the Audi turned right onto West 125th Street and passed a stop sign, the officers pulled the car over. A New York DWI Lawyer said when the officers parked their patrol car behind the Audi, and approached the car from opposite sides. The accused man was seated in the front passenger seat. The officer who was standing outside the car near the accused man observed an open shopping bag filled with vials and yellow caps standing upright on the floor behind the accused man. The officer signaled his partner, who was standing on the driver’s side, and gestured to the bag, alerting his partner to the contents he observed. One of the officers then asked the three men in the car if the vials belonged to them and each denied ownership. Nor could any of the individuals tell the officers what the vials were used for. The officers subsequently arrested the three individuals for criminally using drug paraphernalia, and issued summonses to the driver for failing to yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk and to yield at a stop sign.

A backup team of two officers arrived as the arresting officers were securing the car’s passengers while checking for weapons. The shopping bag was then removed from the car and upon examination yielded eight sealed, clear plastic bags, containing a total of 200 empty vials separately packaged from 200 matching yellow caps, a bread crumb container and a carton of instant cocoa powder. The bread crumb container proved to have a false bottom, which revealed a bag of crack cocaine. The accused man volunteered that he came to buy the cocaine for someone else and his two companions had nothing to do with the cocaine possession.

All three individuals were transported to the precinct, where Miranda warnings were administered. The accused man indicated that he understood his rights and agreed to answer questions. A Nassau County DWI Lawyer said he admitted that he bought the crack on 140th Street for $2,800 and had purchased drugs in that neighborhood twice before but denied he sold crack. He maintained his present purchase was on behalf of someone else and stated that a vial would sell for $40 in Pennsylvania.

Following a suppression hearing, the trial court found, under the totality of the circumstances, that there was probable cause to believe there was contraband in the car, justifying the arrest of the car’s occupants and search of the vehicle. Therefore, the trial court denied the accused man’s motion to suppress.

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