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'Lights and sirens’ not required for traffic stop, says Brooklyn judge

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Joel Goldberg.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Stopping in front of a vehicle is not an aggressive police stop, Brooklyn Supreme Court Acting Justice Joel Goldberg ruled.
 
Police officers reportedly observed a Nissan Altima with excessively tinted windows fail to complete a stop at a stop sign. At the same time, police received an anonymous 911 call stating that a man in the same Altima had a gun.

In an attempt to ascertain whether or not a gun was in the car, as well as to cite the driver for traffic violations, police officers cut in front of the car to prevent it from going any further.  Once they pulled the car over, police saw an occupant fumbling to hide a gun.

Queens defense attorneys Robert DiDio and Danielle Muscatello attempted to suppress evidence of the recovered gun, arguing that the police were unwarranted in the aggressive manner by which they stopped the defendant’s car. They also argued that the aggressive stop startled the defendant, which is what allowed the police to discover the weapon.

The average motorist, the defense argued, would expect police officers to provide warnings to a driver that he or she is being pulled over—warnings including the use of lights, sirens or an announcement to “pull over.”

Goldberg agreed that the “use by the police of lights, sirens, and loudspeakers are all common methods of causing a motorist to pull over.” However, he said, “there appears to be no legal prohibition on the police, who otherwise have a right to stop a motor vehicle, effecting that stop by cutting off the motorist,” Goldberg continued.

The defense, Goldberg determined, did not provide sufficient case law showing limitations on traffic stop procedure. "Once the police have a right to stop a motorist, as they did in this case [due to the tinted windows and failure to stop at a stop sign],” Goldberg ruled, “there is no requirement that the police first attempt to do so by escalating methods, beginning first with lights and then sirens and then loudspeakers, and only after these methods fail may the motorist be cut off."

Further, Goldberg ruled, the discovery of the gun was not the result of “spontaneous reaction” to being cut off by the police.  “Having been stopped, whether over aggressively or not, it was the defendant’s own actions in attempting to conceal the gun that permitted the police to observe it,” wrote Goldberg.

The discovery would have been the same, Goldberg concluded, “if the defendant had instead voluntarily pulled over in response to police lights, sirens, and/or loudspeakers.”

Kings County Assistant District Attorney Samuel DePaola represented the prosecution.

August 14, 2013 - 8:00am


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