People v. Allen

Decision Date01 December 2011
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of New York, Appellant, v. Michael L. ALLEN, Respondent.
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

2011 N.Y. Slip Op. 08688
90 A.D.3d 1082
933 N.Y.S.2d 756

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Appellant,
v.
Michael L. ALLEN, Respondent.

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, New York.

Dec. 1, 2011.


[933 N.Y.S.2d 757]

P. David Soares, District Attorney, Albany (Steven M. Sharp of counsel), for appellant.

David Brickman, Albany, for respondent.

Before: MERCURE, J.P., MALONE JR., STEIN, McCARTHY and EGAN JR., JJ.

McCARTHY, J.

[90 A.D.3d 1082] Appeal from an order of the Supreme Court (Lamont, J.), entered March 24, 2011 in Albany County, which granted defendant's motion to suppress evidence.

A deputy sheriff observed, in his rear view mirror, a bright [90 A.D.3d 1083] white light coming from the tail light of defendant's vehicle. The deputy turned his vehicle around and stopped defendant for not having a red tail light as required by Vehicle and Traffic Law § 375(2)(a)(3). Their interaction led to an indictment for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree and driving while intoxicated (two counts). Following a suppression hearing, Supreme Court found that the stop was not justified by any violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law § 375 and granted defendant's motion to suppress his statements, the deputy's observations of defendant and the results of a chemical test. The People appeal.

Supreme Court erred by independently testing the tail light assembly to determine the deputy's credibility and the legality of the stop. The court found the deputy generally credible, but disbelieved his testimony that he observed only white light coming from defendant's tail light. To reach this conclusion, the court “placed a working light bulb in the ‘left rear running light’ portion of the tail light assembly and observed the illuminated left rear running light in the dark from various distances of up to approximately 600 feet.” Based upon this sua sponte experiment, performed without notice to and outside the presence of the parties after the proof had been closed, the court concluded, “When viewed from different angles, the silver reflective portion of the tail light assembly causes white light to emanate from the [quarter-sized] hole in the red lens. However, the predominate light by far observed emanating from the illuminated left rear tail light is red light.”

The trier of fact may apply logic, common sense and everyday experience to interpret the admitted evidence, but may not engage in conduct that tends to put the factfinder in possession of evidence that was not introduced ( see

[933 N.Y.S.2d 758]

People v. Brown, 48 N.Y.2d 388, 393, 423 N.Y.S.2d 461, 399 N.E.2d 51 [1979] ). Supreme Court's experiment here went beyond merely applying everyday experience ( see id. at 394, 423 N.Y.S.2d 461, 399 N.E.2d 51) or observing the properties of the physical evidence itself ( see People v. Gerard, 10 A.D.3d 579, 579–580, 782 N.Y.S.2d 90 [2004], lv. denied 4 N.Y.3d 744, 790 N.Y.S.2d 656, 824 N.E.2d 57 [2004] [affirming where jury was permitted to look down courthouse hallway through binoculars in evidence]; People v. Gomez, 273 A.D.2d 160, 161, 710 N.Y.S.2d 53 [2000], lv. denied 95 N.Y.2d 890, 715 N.Y.S.2d 381, 738 N.E.2d 785 [2000] [permitting jury to observe sound made by dropping pistol admitted in evidence]; People v. Engler, 150 A.D.2d 827, 830–831, 540 N.Y.S.2d 591 [1989], lv. denied 75 N.Y.2d 770, 551 N.Y.S.2d 912, 551 N.E.2d 113 [1989] [finding no error, and mere application of everyday experience to issues at trial, where jurors filled a vaporizer, in evidence, with water and operated it in the jury room] ). The court inserted a light bulb of some kind, attached a power source, and viewed the tail light...

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10 cases
  • People v. Guthrie
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • 7 Abril 2015
    ...889 N.Y.S.2d 789 [4th Dept.2009] ; People v. Smith, 67 A.D.3d 1392, 1392, 887 N.Y.S.2d 883 [4th Dept.2009] ; see also People v. Allen, 90 A.D.3d 1082, 1084, 933 N.Y.S.2d 756 [3d Dept.2011] ; People v. MacKenzie, 61 A.D.3d 703, 703, 875 N.Y.S.2d 908 [2d Dept.2009], lv. denied 13 N.Y.3d 798, ......
  • People v. Hinshaw
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • 1 Septiembre 2020
    ...2018] ; 132 N.Y.S.3d 109156 N.E.3d 831 People v. Kindred, 100 A.D.3d 1038, 1039, 952 N.Y.S.2d 832 [3d Dept. 2012] ; People v. Allen, 90 A.D.3d 1082, 1084, 933 N.Y.S.2d 756 [3d Dept. 2011] ; People v. Jones, 63 A.D.3d 1643, 1644, 881 N.Y.S.2d 256 [4th Dept. 2009] ; People v. Davis, 58 A.D.3d......
  • People v. Guthrie, 50
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • 7 Abril 2015
    ...889 N.Y.S.2d 789 [4th Dept.2009] ; People v. Smith, 67 A.D.3d 1392, 1392, 887 N.Y.S.2d 883 [4th Dept.2009] ; see also People v. Allen, 90 A.D.3d 1082, 1084, 933 N.Y.S.2d 756 [3d Dept.2011] ; People v. MacKenzie, 61 A.D.3d 703, 703, 875 N.Y.S.2d 908 [2d Dept.2009], lv. denied 13 N.Y.3d 798, ......
  • People v. Smith
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • 16 Julio 2020
    ...874 N.Y.S.2d 13, 902 N.E.2d 447 [2009] ). The People bear the "initial burden of showing that the stop was lawful" ( People v. Allen, 90 A.D.3d 1082, 1085, 933 N.Y.S.2d 756 [2011] ; accord People v. Driscoll, 145 A.D.3d 1349, 1349, 44 N.Y.S.3d 269 [2016] ).During the suppression hearing, an......
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