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Law School Case Brief

People v. Jennings - 54 N.Y.2d 518, 446 N.Y.S.2d 229, 430 N.E.2d 1282 (1981)

Rule:

The "fellow officer" rule outlines that in making an arrest a police officer may rely upon information communicated to him by another police officer as, for example, that an individual is the subject named in a warrant and should be taken into custody in execution of the warrant. However, if, in the example given, the warrant turns out to be invalid, any evidence seized as a result of the arrest is suppressed notwithstanding the reasonableness of the arresting officer's reliance upon the communication.

Facts:

Defendant Richard J. Jennings was suspected of committing a series of burglaries in Malverne, Long Island, in Aug. 1978. A flyer alerting Hempstead, Malverne and Lynbrook Police Departments about defendant's identity, the make and model of his car, and his suspected activities was circulated by Nassau police in early Sept. 1978. On Sept. 11, 1978, Officer Raymond Enright of the Hempstead Police Department spotted defendant while cruising on Belmont Parkway. He followed defendant's car for several blocks during which defendant drove through a stop sign and twice failed to signal before making a turn. Enright pulled defendant over for these traffic violations and while writing up the tickets gave defendant's name, date of birth, race and sex to Hempstead Police Headquarters for a warrant check, in accordance with standard procedure. During the stop, a check of computerized records showed an active violation warrant. In fact, the warrant had been executed and the warrant was no longer outstanding. Moreover, the warrant had been vacated by a state court order. Defendant was immediately arrested and a search produced jewelry which had been stolen from two households. Defendant moved on U.S. Const. amend. IV grounds to suppress the physical evidence, his palm print, and a statement he made admitting a burglary. The motion was denied and defendant was convicted of burglary in the second degree, grand larceny in the second degree, and burglary in the third degree after trial in New York state court. The appellate division unanimously affirmed the judgment of conviction. Defendant appealed.

Issue:

Was the arrest of defendant valid?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The state's highest court reversed, vacated the convictions, granted the motion to suppress, and remitted for further proceedings on the indictments. The court ruled that the arrests of a suspect, such as defendant, made in reliance upon information in criminal justice system records which, although correct when made, no longer applied and which, through a fault in the system, had been retained in its records after it became inapplicable, was invalid. Further, the court ruled, the evidence obtained as a result of defendant's arrest, made on the basis of such information, had to be suppressed.

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