24 N.Y.3d 615, 2014-08759, People v. Reid

Docket Nº:2014-08759, 205
Citation:24 N.Y.3d 615, 26 N.E.3d 237, 2 N.Y.S.3d 409
Opinion Judge:SMITH, J.:
Party Name:The People & c., Respondent, v. Graham Reid, Appellant
Attorney:Antonio J. Perez-Marques, for appellant. Richard Nahas, for respondent. New York Civil Liberties Union, amicus curiae.
Judge Panel:Opinion by Judge Smith. Chief Judge Lippman and Judges Pigott and Rivera concur. Judge Read dissents in an opinion. Judge Abdus-Salaam took no part. READ, J. (DISSENTING):
Case Date:December 16, 2014
Court:New York Court of Appeals
 
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Page 615

24 N.Y.3d 615

26 N.E.3d 237, 2 N.Y.S.3d 409

The People & c., Respondent,

v.

Graham Reid, Appellant

2014-08759, No. 205

Court of Appeals of New York

December 16, 2014

Page 616

Antonio J. Perez-Marques, for appellant.

Richard Nahas, for respondent.

New York Civil Liberties Union, amicus curiae.

Opinion by Judge Smith. Chief Judge Lippman and Judges Pigott and Rivera concur. Judge Read dissents in an opinion. Judge Abdus-Salaam took no part.

Page 617

OPINION

SMITH, J.:

The issue here is whether a search of a driver by the police officer who stopped his car was " incident" to the driver's arrest. We hold that it was not, because the record shows that, although probable cause to arrest the driver existed before the search, the driver would not have been arrested if the search had not produced evidence of a crime.

I

Officer Jacob Merino testified at a suppression hearing that he followed the car defendant was driving while it crossed double lines into a lane of oncoming traffic, swerved in and out of its lane without signaling, and made a right turn without signaling. Merino stopped the car and approached it. He saw that defendant's eyes were " very watery" and his clothing was disheveled. There were plastic cups in the car's center console, and the officer detected an odor of alcohol. Merino asked defendant if he had been drinking, and received an odd answer:

Page 618

defendant said he had a beer after getting off work at 4:00 PM -- though his conversation with the officer took place at 5:00 in the morning. It is not disputed that the officer's observations gave him probable cause to arrest defendant for driving while intoxicated (though, as it later turned out, defendant's blood alcohol level was zero).

Merino asked defendant to step out of the car and patted him down. In the course of doing so, he found a switchblade knife in defendant's pocket. Defendant was then arrested.

In response to questions by the court, Merino gave the following testimony, referring to the moment when he asked defendant to get out of the car:

" THE COURT: At that point, were you going to arrest him?

" THE WITNESS: No.

" THE COURT: You weren't?

" THE WITNESS: No."

. . .

" THE COURT: So it's only because you ultimately found the switchblade that you arrested him?

" THE WITNESS: Yes, ma'am."

Defendant's motion to suppress the knife was denied on the ground that the pat-down was " justified as a search incident to arrest," and defendant pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that so long as probable cause to arrest defendant for driving while intoxicated existed, it was irrelevant whether Merino subjectively intended to make such an arrest ( People v. Reid, 104 A.D.3d 58, 957 N.Y.S.2d 332 [1st Dept 2013]). A Judge of this Court granted leave to appeal (21 N.Y.3d 1008, 993 N.E.2d 1283, 971 N.Y.S.2d 260, 2013 N.Y. Slip Op 98032[U] [2013]), and we now reverse.

II

The People make no claim that the pat-down in this case was justified either by reasonable suspicion that defendant presented a danger to the officer or by probable cause to believe contraband would be discovered. The only justification the People offer for the search...

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