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The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution


The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that Citizens shall be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, of individual liberty and privacy, and the right to be left alone. The landmark Court of Appeals decision in a case, firmly established that “Before the police may stop a person pursuant to the common-law right to inquire there must exist at that moment a founded suspicion that criminal activity is present,” and “the police may not justify a stop by a subsequently acquired suspicion resulting from the stop.” It has been long held that the stop of an automobile constitutes a limited seizure of its occupants for federal and state constitutional purposes. The Court of Appeals has specifically held that in order for a Police Officer to legally stop a vehicle, the Officer needs to have either observed a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, or reasonably suspects that the occupants had been, were then, or were about to be engaged in criminal conduct.

In this case, the Officer testified that she observed defendants entering a bank, in a high crime area, with clothing that was suspicious given the weather conditions. Specifically, the defendants were wearing heavy hooded sweat shirts on a warm day when Officer was wearing a T-shirt. The Officer observed defendants put up their hoods before entering the bank and then she observed them race out of the bank and into a moving Toyota Camry.

The Officer testified that she believed that a bank robbery had occurred. This Court finds that the observations of the Officer correctly supported her belief. It is clear that a Police Officer may not stop a vehicle merely based on a hunch.

The Officer testified that as soon as the defendants were removed from the Toyota Camry, they were handcuffed and placed under arrest. She testified that at the same time, she received a radio call that there had been a bank robbery at the Queens County Savings Bank. The Officer testified that various sums of currency were recovered from each of the defendants. In addition, the Officer stated that she observed the contents of defendant’s wallet as it was handed to her because the wallet could not close as it was stuffed with money.

Since this Court finds that there was probable cause to arrest the defendants upon them exiting the car, the search of the defendants was legally permissible as a search incident to a lawful arrest.. Defendants’ motions to suppress the items recovered pursuant to a search of each of the defendants are hereby denied.

The Officer testified that she observed an open duffel bag on the center console of the Toyota Camry and she noticed a wig protruding out. The duffel bag and the wig were in plain view. She testified that the duffel bag was searched at the scene incident to arrest. The Officer also testified that the inside and the trunk of the Toyota Camry were searched at the scene incident to arrest. On cross-examination, she testified that the duffel bag and the trunk were searched back at the 107th Precinct. It is well settled that “[a] police officer’s entry into a citizen’s automobile … is a significant encroachment upon that citizen’s privacy interest” An ordinary traffic infraction standing alone will not justify a search of the vehicle. However, circumstances unique to the automobile context justify a search incident to a lawful arrest when it is “reasonable to believe evidence relevant to the crime of arrest might be found in the vehicle”

If probable cause justified the search of a lawfully stopped vehicle, it justifies the search of every part of the vehicle and its contents that may conceal the object of the search.

Furthermore, in these circumstances, the location of the car search, whether it is on the roadside or at the Precinct, is of no moment. This Criminal Court finds that both the duffel bag and the Toyota Camry were properly searched incident to the arrest of the defendants. Defendants’ motions to suppress the items recovered pursuant to the search of the duffel bag and the Toyota Camry are hereby denied.

The Defendant allegedly made oral statements to Detective, oral statements and a written statement to Detective, and oral statements and a written statement to Detective.

Regarding the oral statements to Detective, defense counsel moves to preclude the use of said statements based upon the People’s failure to timely serve notice of the statements to defendant. The People concede that the oral statements allegedly made by defendant to Detective were not previously turned over to defendant. The People indicated that they litigated the oral statements in order to use them on cross examination should defendant take the stand and testify. Therefore, the People sought to establish that the statements were voluntarily made by defendant. The People elicited testimony from Detective that he read “ Miranda Warnings,” using a Miranda sheet, to an individual who he referred to the defendant.

Thereafter, the individual made various statements to Detective. At the conclusion of the discussion, the individual declined to give a written statement. The prosecutor failed to have Detective identify defendant as the person who was read his “ Miranda Warnings,” and who voluntarily made the oral statements. Defendant’s motion to preclude said oral statements is granted since the People failed to give the defendant timely notice of said statements pursuant to C.P.L. § 710.30. The People are also precluded from using said statements on cross examination since they failed to establish that defendant was the individual that voluntarily made the statements to Detective.

The Court has reviewed the photo array and examined each of the six (6) photographs contained therein. The six (6) photographs depict individuals who exhibit similar characteristics as the criminal defendant. This Court finds that a viewer’s attention is not particularly drawn to the defendant. The Court holds that there was nothing unduly suggestive regarding the photo array, or the manner in which Detective presented the photo array to the complainant. This Court finds that the People established the reasonableness of the Police conduct and the absence of suggestiveness in the photo array.

Finally, this Court finds that the seal in the top left corner of the photo array is practically illegible to the naked eye. Upon a close examination one can discern the words “New York, New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.” Nevertheless, this Court finds that said seal did not taint the photo array since under these circumstances, even if the complainant had noticed the markings, they would not have influenced her selection of the defendant’s photo. Consequently, defendant Washington’s motion to suppress the identification is hereby denied.

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