The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Chambers, determined: (1) the appellate court can consider an appeal of a suppression ruling which was not based on a theory argued by the parties below, but which was based upon the hearing evidence and fully laid out and explained by the motion court; and (2) the automobile exception to the warrant requirement did not apply and the evidence seized from defendant’s vehicle should have been suppressed:
The narrow reading of Tates [189 AD3d 1088] advocated by the People is consistent with the approach taken by the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, and the Appellate Division, First Department, in comparable cases involving the suppression court’s application of the automobile exception to the warrant requirement … The general rule articulated in these cases is that the suppression court is “entitled to consider legal justifications that were supported by the evidence, even if they were not raised explicitly by the People” … . * * *
“[A]bsent probable cause, it is unlawful for a police officer to invade the interior of a stopped vehicle once the suspects have been removed and patted down without incident, as any immediate threat to the officers’ safety has consequently been eliminated” … . Pursuant to the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, a warrantless search of a vehicle is permitted when the police have probable cause to believe the vehicle contains contraband, a weapon, or evidence of a crime … .
Here, “the circumstances known to the police at the time of the search did not rise to the level of probable cause” … . People v Marcial, 2022 NY Slip Op 06142, Second Dept 11-2-22
Practice Point: An appellate court may consider a suppression court’s ruling which is grounded upon a theory (here the automobile exception to the warrant requirement) not raised or argued by the parties, as long as the ruling is based upon the evidence and is fully laid out and explained by the motion court.
Practice Point: Here the automobile exception to the warrant requirement did not apply and the evidence seized from defendant’s vehicle should have been suppressed.