Second Department Holds Emergency Doctrine Did Not Apply to Warrantless Search

Marc Ringel was released from a New York State prison the weekend of December 31, 2016 to January 1, 2017 after previously pleading guilty to criminal possession and weapons charges. The Second Department of New York State’s Appellate Division unanimously overruled the Nassau County Supreme Court’s decision not to suppress the evidence leading to Mr. Ringel’s plea, which subsequently lead to the dismissal of the case.

On March 6th 2012, police responded to the Woodmere home of Mr. Ringel’s parents, after being alerted that the silent alarm had been set off. Upon arriving at the home, Nassau County Police found Mr. Ringel in the driveway working under his van. The police informed Mr. Ringel of the reason for their visit to which he advised them the home belonged to his parents who were away in Florida. Mr. Ringel was unable to produce any identification, but informed the officers that his sister was on the way to pick him up to drive him to the airport. Mr. Ringel called his sister on his cell phone to corroborate his story and one of the officers took the phone and spoke to her.

The officers claimed that during the conversation Mr. Ringel seemed “agitated and evasive.” They then advised Mr. Ringel that they would need to check inside the house to make sure everyone is safe. At that time, Mr. Ringel attempted to retreat into the house and close the door behind him, but the officer pushed him in and entered behind him. There was no one located inside the house, but the officer saw two hand grenades and a hand gun. After the discovery, the officers obtained a search warrant. The search revealed guns, forged gun permits, explosives, ten pounds of marijuana and forged currency.

At his hearing, Mr. Ringel moved to suppress the statements to the police and the evidence in the house as a violation of this fourth amendment rights. The Nassau County Supreme Court denied the motion which lead Ringel to plead guilty. In its decision, the court ruled that the emergency doctrine, an exception to the fourth amendment that in limited circumstances allows for the warrantless search of an individual’s home, applied. The emergency doctrine allows police officers to search the premises if the officers have a reasonable belief that someone in the house required emergency assistance.

On review, the three-judge panel determined that the officers lacked an objectively reasonable belief that there was an emergency endangering a person within the house. Recognizing that whether there was an actual emergency or not does not factor into the decision, the court determined that the officers could not reasonably believe that someone was in danger. The court saw no objectively reasonable evidence that would lead the officers to believe that there was any danger. Instead, the court recognized that the officers were responding to a silent alarm, a fairly common occurrence that often leads to no actual danger. Furthermore, if the officers were concerned about whether Mr. Ringel was telling the truth, they could have spoken to a neighbor, as a car was running next door.

After deciding to suppress the evidence, the court determined that the indictment would have to be dismissed because there is not sufficient evidence to hold up the charges. Following a four-year jail term, Mr. Ringel was released from prison.

If you have been arrested and accused of a crime, your freedom and future are at stake. Therefore, it is necessary to have experienced representation to protect your rights from the time of arrest through the conclusion of the case. The Leventhal Law Group is experienced in dealing with all aspects of the criminal justice system and is dedicated to helping clients achieve the best possible outcome for their case. The Leventhal Law Group will make sure you understand the confusing process of the criminal justice system and treat you with dignity and respect each step of the way. Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Leventhal Law Group at (718) 556-9600, or fill out our online contact form here.

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