Warrantless Search of Defendant’s Jacket Not Justified–Defendant Was Handcuffed Inside a Police Car and Jacket Was Outside the Car
The First Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Richter, over a dissent, determined that the warrantless search of defendant's jacket could not be justified. The defendant was handcuffed and sitting in the back of a police car when the jacket, which was on the trunk of the police car, was searched:
“[A]ll warrantless searches presumptively are unreasonable per se,” and, “[w]here a warrant has not been obtained, it is the People who have the burden of overcoming” this presumption of unreasonableness … . As the Court of Appeals recently reiterated in Jimenez (22 NY3d at 717), the People must satisfy two separate requirements to justify a warrantless search of a container incident to arrest. “The first imposes spatial and temporal limitations to ensure that the search is not significantly divorced in time or place from the arrest” (Jimenez, 22 NY3d at 721 [internal quotation marks omitted]…). The second requires the People to demonstrate the presence of exigent circumstances (Jimenez, 22 NY3d at 722). The Court of Appeals has recognized two interests underlying the exigency requirement: the safety of the public and the arresting officer, and the protection of evidence from destruction or concealment … . * * *
Here, the jacket was unquestionably outside defendant's grabbable area at the time of the search, which even the dissent acknowledges. Defendant was sitting handcuffed inside a police car, the jacket was outside lying on the vehicle's trunk, and numerous officers were on the scene. Thus, the jacket had been reduced to the exclusive control of the police and there was no reasonable possibility that defendant could have reached it… .
Further, the People failed to establish the requisite exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless search of the jacket. Although defendant had previously struggled with police, five to six additional officers had arrived on the scene and defendant was subdued and placed in the police car. Thus, the scene at the time of the search was police-controlled … . People v Morales, 2015 NY Slip Op 01190, 1st Dept 2-10-15