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Court Discusses Concept of Probable Cause

A New York Criminal Lawyer said this Criminal case, the People appeal from an order of the Supreme Court, granting defendants’ motions to suppress narcotics evidence as having been obtained as a result of illegal search and seizure. We disagree and would deny the motions.

A Bronx County Criminal lawyer said that since the latter part of October, 1969, the police of the Narcotics Division had been conducting an investigation into the activities of an individual, a known figure in the illegal narcotics trade. Surveillance began with the receipt of a phone call in October 1969. That informant gave the names and addresses of four women, all involved in narcotics, two of whom were ‘mill operators’. All four of them are now among the fifteen defendants arrested in a police sortie.

A New York Criminal Lawyer said on the day before the disputed arrests and seizures, the police obtained a search warrant. Originally, the District Attorney took the position that the warrant was valid, but during the hearing and before the court made a final disposition, he conceded it to be void.

Before the arrests, which were made, the police had acquired much information concerning the premises and the suspects.

A Nassau Criminal Lawyer said in view of such prior police information and knowledge, combined with their observations on the morning, the court find that even without the warrant, concededly void, there was sufficient evidence to sustain a holding of probable cause, and to justify the arrest of the defendants and the seizure. The observation of the officers, experienced in narcotics detection, after prolonged investigation, substantiated their prior information or reasoned beliefs that the defendants actually were engaged in criminal activities. Under these ‘exigent circumstances’, the entry was legal and the arrest was proper. And upon entry, the officers found the defendants processing ten pounds of heroin for street sale, in fifteen thousand (15,000) glassine envelopes. No small operation. And the contraband and the paraphernalia of their nefarious trade were all openly exposed on the table, the defendants engaged in a combined operation. Although the articles seized are not to be regarded as an element of probable cause, we may note the nature of them.

A Queens Criminal Lawyer said in determining the issue of probable cause, consideration must be given to the facts existing on the morning of the search: the prior confidential information and concerted study, the coming together in an early Friday morning of known purveyors, mill operators, numerous females converging for a rendezvous in an apartment, where occupancy had been verified, the apartment to be used that day as a narcotics mill, as it had been so used before.

Some of ‘the girls’ had been seen previously, some that morning, in the company of the known mill operators, some of them with short hair and in the esoteric garb of men’s clothing. It is 7:55 A.M. The sight of so many ‘girls’ up betimes, in that neighborhood, and in one place, standing by itself alone, would come under the heading of ‘unusual activity’. Then, on the scene there appears a stranger, in a Buick, with an out-of-state license plate. Emerging, he stands at the trunk of the car, his arms folded, and gazes around ‘for approximately five minutes, looking both up and down the streets as if he were waiting to go in’.

And, in judging the conduct of these six experienced officers that early January morning, we cannot dissever their activities from their prior information that defendants were known mill operators and had used apartment before for their illegal operations. ‘They were sort of the bosses or the gatherers of the girls, to run these operations’. Indeed, a detective testified that just before entry, he heard a name, a sobriquet favored by both of them. And they were known to the Narcotics Detectives from ‘their police photographs of past arrests along with their yellow sheets’. And it was also known by these knowledgable officers that the women who worked for them often wore men’s clothing.

Thus, the court must view the police sally as the result of an ensemble of facts, a composite of knowledge. Altogether, there certainly was that degree of ‘unusual activity’ justifying a conclusion of probable cause.

The main error of the Trial Judge was that he made an excision of all knowledge prior to the concededly void warrant and refused to consider it.

‘As we have often observed, probable cause is the sum total of layers of information and the synthesis of what the police have heard, what they know, and what they observe as trained officers. We weigh not individual layers but the ‘laminated’ total.’

‘In dealing with probable cause as the very name implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life in which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act’

Accordingly, based on a combination of all the known circumstances, a totality of the prior information and current observations, these street-wise detectives, in the light of their expertise, knew or had probable cause to conclude that mischief was afoot in apartment 3H, and it involved contraband narcotics.

If you are a victim of illegal arrest during a buy-bust or entrapment operations, you can consult our Bronx County Drug Crime lawyers here in Stephen Bilkis and Associates, who will inform you of the steps to take. In other cases, you can consult our Bronx County Criminal attorneys.

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