Two New York City police officers claim their reason for flagging down a driver recently in Queens was that the man's windows were tinted too darkly. Despite such a dubious probable cause, the traffic stop resulted in very serious charges against the 34-year-old driver.
The police claim to have found 2 kilograms of cocaine in the man's trunk, in addition to marijuana, crack cocaine and a so-called gravity knife. The driver's 13-year-old son was also in the car at the time, and the man faces another charge of endangering a child.
The allegations in this case are very serious, but the circumstances of the defendant's arrest demand further scrutiny. First, a closer look at the windows of the car in question may reveal that the arresting officers did not have sufficient cause to flag down the man's vehicle.
Secondly, the police claim he was in possession of a gravity knife that was plainly in view within the car. However, sometimes prosecutors will seek to categorize an object as a gravity knife when really it is only a folding knife, which is legal to possess.
To obtain the alleged drugs in the car, the police conducted a search and seizure. But evidence obtained in a search and seizure can be deemed inadmissible in court if authorities fail to establish probable cause for stopping a vehicle.
In all, the defendant in this case has been charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a weapon and acting in a manner injurious to a child less than 17.
Pending a careful look at the police report and the admissible evidence, it remains to be seen whether all of those charges will hold up in court.
Source: Norwich Bulletin, "Police say Norwich man transporting 2 kilos cocaine, son," Greg Smith, May 15, 2012