Case Conclusion Date: May 9, 2007
Practice Area: Criminal Defense
Outcome: Case dismissed after probable cause hearing
Description: My client was facing 2 misdemeanor charges upon evidence of which the police developed only subsequent being stopped for the infraction of failure to stop for a school bus engaged in picking up passengers, NY VTL Sec. 1174. One of the many elements that the people must show to sustain a prima facie case is that the bus was actively discharged in dropping off or picking up school children for a bona fide school district. The matter was set down for a probable cause hearing. At the hearing I adduced from the arresting officer that (1) my client had less than 40 feet and one second to stop from the time the school bus swung its stop signs out, and that (2) the police car was 15 feet directly behind my client doing 30 MPH. Further, the police officer testified that he did not see anyone getting onto or off the bus, and merely "assumed" that the bus was engaged in the pick-up or discharge of passengers. The court found that my client did not violate the statute because to do so would have required an immediate slamming of his breaks which would have caused an unusually dangerous situation and certainly caused the tailgating officer to slam into the rear of my clients vehicle. The court applied the doctrine of the defense of necessity, which in NY holds that when it is safer to violate a law than obey it no crime is being committed. The court did not pass on the issue of the people failing to meet its burden of proving the element that the bus was engaged in pick up / discharge for a school district. Consequently, the court found that the search and seizure of my client was illegal. The court dismissed the VTL Sec. 1174 charge, suppressed the evidence gleaned subsequent to the illegal stop under the fruits of the poisonous tree doctrine, and with no evidence for the people to offer dismissed the 2 misdemeanors.