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Defendant Claims Rights Were Violated in Search

This is a case before the Justice Court of the City of New York in Nassau County. The plaintiff in the case is the People of the State of New York.

Case Background

There was reason to believe that the defendants were living in a home that was over occupied. An affidavit was submitted to support the warrant. A New York Criminal Lawyer said in the affidavit it was shown that there was reason to believe that up to 25 people were currently living in different areas of the premises. This is a violation of the rental code and there had been several complaints regarding the premises.

On the 25th of September in 2003, the Honorable Elizabeth D. Pessala signed a search warrant directed for any police officer of Nassau County. This search warrant provided that there was probable and reasonable cause for the premises located at 335 Princeton Street in Westbury, New York to be searched for the following:

• Illegal plumbing, kitchen, and sleeping quarters located in the basement of the premises

• Evidence that two family dwellings are being maintained on the premises

• Evidence of doors with key locks to the sleeping quarters of the home

• Evidence that the premise is over occupied.

The warrant directed that evidence be in the form of still photographs and videotape pictures of both the inside and the outside of the premises. The warrant must be executed within ten days of being signed. Furthermore, all evidence should be returned to the undersigned Justice of the Village Court immediately.

Evidence from Search Warrant

The premise was searched according the warrant and it was found that there were currently 19 adults and six children living in the home. Some of the occupants had the same last name and some did not. The majority of the bedrooms in the home had individually locked doors and there was no smoke detector on the premises. It was indicated from the people who were interviewed from the home that they paid a minimum of $2,275 per month for rent.

Charges

After the inspection of the home the defendants were charged with at least a dozen alleged violations of the Village Code. These violations were issued by tickets and summons. Some of the charges included changing the home to an illegal multiple dwelling, exceeding the maximum occupancy of the home, use of a cellar as a hospitable place, renting without a permit, plus several others. The penalties upon conviction range from $100 up to $1000 per fine plus up to 15 days in jail. The total for all the charges would be $11,000 in fines and 165 days in jail.

Case Discussion and Decision

A Bronx Criminal Lawyer said there are several aspects of the search that make it problematic. There were several police officers and investigators present during the search, which was not necessary. While the court finds that the evidence gathering for the case was excessive, it is also determined that the Building Department was acting in good faith for the inspection and that the rights of the defendants were not violated.

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