Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York DUI case requiring the court to assess the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress. In a pre-trial motion, the court suppressed evidence obtained by the arresting officer, finding that the officer lacked justification to stop the defendant. However, on appeal, that ruling was reversed.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, a police officer received a call reporting that the driver of a white Nissan was smoking marijuana while driving. The caller provided the license plate of the vehicle as well as its direction of travel. Oddly enough, the officer who received the call was actually driving right behind the white Nissan. The officer observed as the car’s wheels traveled over the curb and momentarily onto the sidewalk as it made a right turn.
The officer pulled over the defendant, who was driving the Nissan. Upon the officer’s approach, she noticed the smell of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. The defendant was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
In her motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the anonymous caller’s report of her smoking marijuana behind the wheel was insufficient to conduct a traffic stop. The prosecution’s argument was that the fact that the defendant drove up on the sidewalk gave the officer probable cause to pull over the vehicle.
The appellate court agreed with the prosecution and reversed the lower court’s ruling to the contrary. The court explained that it is against New York Vehicle and Traffic Law to drive on the sidewalk. More specifically, it is a violation to drive more than five miles per hour on a sidewalk such that it interferes with a pedestrian’s use of the sidewalk. Thus, if the defendant drove on the sidewalk, the officers had the right to pull her vehicle over to issue a citation. Essentially, the question was whether the defendant’s brief trip onto the curb formed the basis of a traffic violation.
The court looked to the relevant portion of the traffic code to resolve the case. First, the court cited the definition of “sidewalk,” which is the “portion of a street between the curb lines, or the lateral lines of a roadway, and the adjacent property lines, intended for the use of pedestrians.” Then the court looked to the definition of “curb,” which is defined as a “vertical or sloping member along the edge of a roadway clearly defining the pavement edge.”
Crediting the officer’s testimony, the court determined that by briefly driving up on the curb, the defendant violated the law against driving on the sidewalk. Thus, the traffic stop was legal.
Have You Been Arrested After a Traffic Violation?
If you were recently arrested for a New York DWI offense after being pulled over for an unrelated traffic violation, contact the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel. We represent clients facing all types of New York traffic offenses, including those involving allegations of driving while intoxicated. Our experienced attorneys understand the nuances of the state’s traffic laws, and use that knowledge to advocate on behalf of our clients. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel a call at (914) 428-7386.