Court Decision: Automobile Exception to Warrant Requirement Does Not Apply, Judgment Reversed

Appellate Division, Second Department: People v. Marcial

Automobile Exception to Warrant Requirement Does Not Apply, Judgment Reversed

The police initiated a traffic stop after observing Mr. Marcial commit a traffic violation. According to one officer, he recognized the car and Mr. Marcial from a wanted poster for a burglary committed two days earlier, and he took him into custody. A second officer stayed with the car and retrieved and opened a knapsack from the back seat, finding a clear plastic bag of jewelry. The Second Department determined that the automobile exception to the warrant requirement did not apply, since the circumstances known to the police at the time of the search did not amount to probable cause.

The Court cited to various relevant factors: the passage of time since the most recent burglaries; there was no reasonable basis to believe another burglary had just been committed or was afoot; Mr. Marcial was arrested in a different neighborhood than where all the burglaries occurred; there was no hearing testimony suggesting Mr. Marcial made any inculpatory statements; the police never testified they observed any contraband or weapons in plain view; no contraband was found on Mr. Marcial when he was arrested; and the police had no objective reason to believe that the car contained evidence of the burglaries committed a day or two earlier. The judgment was reversed and the branch of the omnibus motion to suppress physical evidence was granted.

Alexis A. Ascher represented Mr. Marcial