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Court Rules on Discusses Exclusionary Rule


The laws of arrest in the United States are well defined. The laws that provide a police officer with the ability to stop a car or a person to determine if they are involved in a crime are also well defined. However, in both cases, case law continues to define the limitations that exist when a police officer has contact with a citizen. A New York Criminal Lawyer said that as the laws stand right now, the landmark case of Terry v Ohio, 1968 still remain the predicate for a stop of a person by a police officer. This case also defines the limitations placed on the officer for patting down the outer garments of the stopped person to determine if that person is carrying a concealed weapon on their person.

One case, involved a detective who saw three men casing a drug store. The officer observed that the men were wearing bulky overcoats even though it was a hot day. The fact that the men were dressed in a manner that was incongruous of the weather conditions, made the officer pause to observe them further. While he watched, he saw that one at a time, the men would each walk up to the window in front of the store and look inside. That person would then return to the group and a discussion would take place. The officer determined that the men were probably concealing weapons under the large coats and that they were casing the store in an effort to determine the optimum opportunity to rob it. He approached the group and began to ask them questions. He was concerned that they were armed, so he ordered them to place their hands on the wall, and he patted down their outer garments. During the course of patting down the outer garments, the officer located a handgun in the pocket of the defendant’s coat (possession of a weapon). He and the others were placed under arrest. The defendant’s attorney claimed that the men were not breaking any laws at the time that the police officer approached them. He maintained that the officer had no right to stop the defendant or to search him. He appealed the conviction of the defendant to the Supreme Court on Constitutional grounds that the police officer had violated the defendant’s Constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure.

The court disagreed. The Supreme Court ruled that it would not be reasonable to prevent an officer from patting down the outer garments of a person who he believed was concealing a firearm and could create a substantial risk to the officer or surrounding people. They determined that the officer had not violated the defendant’s rights because the search was not intrusive until the officer felt an object inside the defendant’s coat that the officer recognized to be the same size, weight, and shape of a handgun. The limitations on a stop under defendant, is that the officer must have articulable reasonable suspicion to stop the subject.

Articulable reasonable suspicion is that suspicion that the officer can explain in words and that is reasonable based on his or her training, knowledge, and experience as a law enforcement officer. If the officer is not able to explain why he or she stopped the subject or patted down the outer garments of the subject, then the stop is considered illegal. A Nassau County Criminal Lawyer said if the stop is illegal, then any item that is recovered as a result of that stop is considered inadmissible in a court of law. The legal rule that excludes the use of illegally obtained evidence in a trial is called the Exclusionary Rule. These regulations on stop and search occasions are still governed by the Terry rule. Sometimes police departments call these stops: Terry stops or Terry frisk. A frisk is the patting down of a person’s outer garments without intruding into the interior clothing unless a suspicious article is felt in the frisk.

On May 1, 1984, a computer store that was in business on West 57th Street was burglarized. It was 4:50 in the morning when the radio call went out notifying officers in the area about the burglary. One detective who was on patrol in an unmarked car that was disguised as a yellow taxi cab, went to the scene and talked to the doorman. The doorman told the officer that he had seen two black people who he believed to be male running from the location when he approached. The undercover officer left the scene to a patrol officer to make the report. He began to check the area.

The only description that he had been given was that of two black men wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes who were last seen running west on 57th street. As the detective turned onto Eighth Avenue, he observed two black people in jeans and tennis shoes. They were southbound on Eighth and could presumable have come from the incident location. They were carrying an object that looked like a television set to the detective. One of the black people that the officer saw looked like a woman. He determined that they must be the suspects and stopped the subjects. He did not ask them any questions, but told them to put the object down and put their hands on the wall. When he looked closer he determined that the object that they were holding was not a television set at all, it was a computer screen. At that point, a New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said placed the subjects under felony arrest and took them back to the location of the burglary. The witness advised that they were the people that he had seen running from the location.

The suspect who appeared to be female at the time that the detective stopped them, turned out to be a male transvestite. The transvestite had a computer cord in his pocket that went to the computer that the two were carrying. The computer that was recovered was the one that was stolen from the store. When the case reached trial, the defense attorney claimed that the computer and the computer cord should be excluded from court under the Exclusionary Rule as the fruits of an illegal search and seizure. They contend that since the officer thought that the subjects were a male and a female, and that he thought that they were carrying a television set rather than a computer, that the stop was not legal. They contend that the description did not fit the defendants.

The court agreed with the defense. They contend that since at the time that the officer observed the suspects, he had no reason that he could articulate in court that demonstrated that these people were the ones that had been described to him. If he had waited to arrest them until they either took flight, or he was closer and could observe that they were both male and that they were carrying a computer, the stop would have been legal. However, under the current circumstances, it was not legal and the evidence was excluded from court.

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its burglary Lawyers, have convenient offices throughout New York and Metropolitan area. Our criminal lawyers can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Without a felony attorney, you could lose precious compensation to help your family.

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