Greenburgh DWI Prosecution Hits The Brakes. Court Finds State Trooper’s Stop Of Vehicle Illegal — All Evidence Suppressed
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Dec. 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Needed life was breathed into the public’s ever diminishing right to be free from illegal stops, seizures and roadside interrogations according to White Plains defense firm Tilem & Campbell. In a decision handed down December 13(th), the Hon. Arlene Gordon-Oliver of the Greenburgh Town Court held law-enforcement accountable for illegally stopping a vehicle on nothing more than an “observation” that the vehicle passed at a State Trooper at 67 mph and suppressed all evidence derived from the illegal stop.
The defendant was represented by White Plains defense attorney John Campbell. The defendant retained Mr. Campbell just days before she was going to plead guilty to misdemeanor DWI pursuant to her first attorney’s advice. After reviewing the case file, Mr. Campbell, himself certified in DUI Detection and Field Sobriety Testing, felt the stop was illegal. After being retained, he indeed focused on, and defeated the prosecution’s case on that very issue.
A lengthy Suppression Hearing was held on January 3, 2012 at the conclusion of which Mr. Campbell argued that the prosecution did not offer any evidence as to how the Trooper determined the defendant was traveling at 67 mph in a 55 mph zone. The prosecution, argued Mr. Campbell, failed to establish the Trooper’s training, experience and accuracy in visually estimating the speed of a moving vehicle. Furthermore, argued Mr. Campbell, the prosecution did not establish if the Trooper used a laser or radar speed detection device or if the Trooper paced defendant’s vehicle. Mr. Campbell argued that the prosecution essentially waltzed into court and pronounced the defendant was speeding because the Trooper said she was speeding.
Mr. Campbell further argued in a Post Hearing Memorandum of Law requested by the Court, that federal search and seizure law flatly rejected the prosecution’s argument that the Trooper had probable cause to stop defendant’s vehicle based upon the Trooper’s bare conclusion that the defendant’s vehicle was speeding. Mr. Campbell also cited People v. Mandato, where the defendant was originally stopped for speeding. In finding the stop illegal, the Appellate Term for the Second Department noted that the officer “testified that he had no training in the visual estimation of the speed of moving vehicles.” People v. Mandato, 195 Misc. 2d 636, 637 (App. Term 2nd Dept. 2003). Therefore, the court held that “the officer did not have probable cause to stop defendant.”
Judge Oliver took the time to write a detailed, well-reasoned decision wherein she explained the often forgotten constitutional restraints on police conduct. Judge Oliver explained that, “Both the United States Constitution and the New York State Constitution prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures.” The decision noted that the United States Supreme Court has consistently held that the stopping of an automobile and detaining its occupants constitutes a seizure that must be supported by probable cause that a traffic infraction was committed or reasonable suspicion that the driver or occupants had, were or were about to commit a crime.
In finding Mr. Campbell’s arguments meritorious, Judge Oliver opined that the Trooper provided no testimony as to his training in the visual estimation of the speed (of) moving vehicles. Nor did the Trooper offer sufficient details about his prior training with pacing, radar or laser speed detection. In fact, he never testified exactly how he determined the vehicle’s speed. Accordingly, ruled Judge Oliver, the stop was illegal and all evidence derived therefore was suppressed.
Mr. Campbell said of the ruling, “There are those amongst us that will see this as a crafty defense attorney finding a loophole or technicality. If asking a so-called ‘trained’ Trooper to simply explain his actions is a loophole or technicality then what exactly are hearings and trials for? This is a huge win.” Said Campbell, “For years I’ve stood in courts all over this State listening to this utter rubbish about visual estimates of a vehicle’s speed. The whole world knows it’s utter junk ‘science.’ And all the courts ask is that the officers simply say the magic words. Just mimic the script about some bogus training and accuracy and the Court will let it in. Never forget this,” concluded Campbell, “constitutional search and seizure law has absolutely nothing to do with officer conduct; and everything to do with what they write. The Trooper,” explained Campbell, “certainly won’t be telling his colleagues ‘I just learned the proper, constitutional requirements before we can stop a car on a visual estimate.’ Instead, he will explain, ‘Hey, listen up, when you’re alleging a visual estimate; this is what you have to say and write.’ I am convinced that constitutional law in the eyes of an officer doesn’t change their conduct, it simply changes their police reports.”
SOURCE Tilem & Campbell