Pedigree Question “Where Do You Reside,” Under the Circumstances, Was Designed to Elicit an Incriminating Response, the Answer, Therefore, Should Have Been Suppressed; New Trial on Possessory Counts Ordered
The Fourth Department ordered a new trial on the drug possession and drug paraphernalia counts. Defendant was convicted based upon a “constructive possession” theory (i.e., possession of contraband based upon defendant’s dominion and control over the premises where the contraband is found). As police officers were conducting a search, and as defendant was handcuffed and lying on the floor, an officer asked defendant where he resided. Defendant answered “here.” The People relied heavily on defendant’s answer to prove constructive possession of contraband found on the premises. Under these circumstances, the pedigree question (where do you reside) was designed to elicit an incriminating response and, because the statement was “unwarned,” the answer should have been suppressed:
Generally, a defendant’s answer concerning his address, when “elicited through routine administrative questioning that [is] not designed to elicit an incriminating response” … , will be considered pedigree information not subject to CPL 710.30 notice requirements even if the statement later proves to be inculpatory … . That is “[b]ecause responses to routine booking questions—pedigree questions . . . —are not suppressible even when obtained in violation of Miranda [and, therefore, a] defendant lacks a constitutional basis upon which to challenge the voluntariness of his [or her] statement” … . “[W]here there is no question of voluntariness, the People are not required to serve defendant with notice” … .
As the Court of Appeals recognized, however, “the People may not rely on the pedigree exception if the questions, though facially appropriate, are likely to elicit incriminating admissions because of the circumstances of the particular case” (id.). Although the question concerning defendant’s address appears to have been a facially appropriate question, we conclude that, under the circumstances of this case and, more specifically, under the circumstances in which the question was asked, the question was likely to elicit an incriminating admission and had a “necessary connection to an essential element of [the possessory] crimes charged” under Penal Law §§ 220.16 and 220.50 (2) … . We agree with defendant that the error in admitting that statement cannot be considered harmless insofar as it relates to the possessory counts of the indictment inasmuch as the People relied heavily on that statement to establish defendant’s constructive possession of the drugs and drug paraphernalia … . People v Slade, 2015 NY Slip Op 08252, 4th Dept 11-13-15