Appellate Division, Fourth Department
People v. Coles
Appealed from Ontario County Court
Background: The defendant was convicted after trial of various drug sale and possession charges. Police entered the defendant’s residence before a search warrant was issued, thus the defendant challenged the seizure of property and his statement to the police. The defendant made two drug sales to police agents, the first time inside his residence in the morning and again in the afternoon, outside the residence. He was arrested while driving home. Police went to the defendant’s residence 45 minutes after the arrest, climbing through a window to make sure that no one was inside who could destroy evidence before they obtained a warrant.
Ruling: Decision was reserved and case remitted to County Court. While the police had probable cause to enter the residence, the Appellate Division found that the people failed to meet their burden of showing that exigent circumstances existed to enter the apartment without a warrant. While there was a reasonable belief of contraband inside the residence, there was no reasonable belief that it was about to be removed, that police would be in danger as they guarded the residence, or that the defendant had accomplices who would try and destroy contraband inside. The defendant was in custody at the time of the search, and there was no testimony that any other person was likely inside.
The case was returned to County Court to address an issue raised by the people, independent source, that had not been addressed by the judge.
Christopher Hammond for the defendant; Brian D. Dennis for the Ontario County District Attorney’s Office