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Law School Case Brief

People v. Ramirez-Portoreal - 88 N.Y.2d 99, 643 N.Y.S.2d 502, 666 N.E.2d 207 (1996)


The "fellow officer" rule provides that even if an arresting officer lacks personal knowledge sufficient to establish probable cause, the arrest will be lawful if the officer acts upon the direction of or as a result of communication with a superior or fellow officer or another police department provided that the police as a whole were in possession of information sufficient to constitute probable cause to make the arrest. If the arrest is challenged by the defendant in a motion to suppress, however, it becomes incumbent upon the people to establish that the officer or agency imparting the information, in fact possessed the probable cause to act. The people must therefore come forward with evidence establishing probable cause to arrest.


In three unrelated cases, defendants had hidden or abandoned drugs in public places, and the police subsequently seized these drugs. Prior to their arrests, each had deposited or hidden drugs in a public place and they challenged the legality of the police actions in seizing them. Following separate rulings by the appellate courts in each of the cases, the court consolidated the appeals in order to address whether the defendants had standing to challenge the legality of such seizures and whether the alleged "abandonment" of the property affected their right to do so.


Did defendants abandon their right to privacy when they discarded their property?




Upon reconsideration, the court reversed the appellate court rulings in each of the cases. Specifically, the court held that standing to seek suppression of evidence required defendants to establish, by their own evidence or by relying on the people's evidence, that they had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place or item that was searched. The court then concluded that property was deemed abandoned when the expectation of privacy in the object or place searched was given up by voluntarily and knowingly discarding the property, and that the result was a waiver of the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

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