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The People of the State of New York v. Barbara Williams

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE TERM: 9th and 10th JUDICIAL DISTRICTS Appellate Term, Second Department


January 30, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK,
APPELLANT,
v.
BARBARA WILLIAMS,
RESPONDENT.

Appeal from an order of the Justice Court of the Village of Quogue, Suffolk County (Gair G. Betts, J.), dated September 23, 2010.

People v Williams (Barbara)

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.

Decided on January 30, 2012

PRESENT: MOLIA, J.P., NICOLAI and IANNACCI, JJ

The order granted defendant's motion to suppress evidence and dismissed the accusatory instruments.

ORDERED that the order is reversed, on the law, defendant's motion to suppress evidence is denied, the accusatory instruments are reinstated, and the matter is remitted to the Justice Court for all further proceedings.

The People charged defendant with, among other things, aggravated driving while intoxicated (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192 [2-a]), driving while intoxicated per se (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192 [2]), common law driving while intoxicated (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192 [3]), and failure to stop at an intersection controlled by a stop sign (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1172 [a]). After a hearing, the Justice Court granted defendant's motion to suppress evidence, on the ground that the People had failed to meet their burden to establish the legality of the initial stop of defendant's vehicle, and dismissed the accusatory instruments.

On July 16, 2008, a police officer stopped defendant's vehicle after allegedly witnessing defendant drive her vehicle, which exhibited a broken indicator light, through an intersection without stopping at a stop sign. After the officer's initial inquiry, a second officer arrived at the scene, interviewed defendant and determined that she exhibited indicia of alcohol consumption and intoxication. The second officer administered field sobriety tests, all of which defendant failed. The first officer then arrested defendant, who later consented to a chemical test of her blood alcohol content. The test revealed a blood alcohol level of .23 per centum by weight. Although the arresting officer, who was the sole witness to defendant's having operated her vehicle through a stop sign without stopping, passed away between the time of the arrest and the suppression hearing, his police vehicle was equipped with a videotape system which recorded the entire incident, including the arrival of the second officer who administered the field sobriety tests and who testified at the hearing as to the degree of defendant's intoxication.

The Justice Court found the hearing proof insufficient to establish the legality of the stop of defendant's vehicle because the People were unable to properly authenticate the portions of the videotape that depict defendant committing the traffic offense and the arresting officer's stop of defendant's automobile, nor could the People provide a witness with sufficient firsthand knowledge of the offense and stop to establish the accuracy of the recording. However, at the hearing, the second officer, who had witnessed the events depicted on the videotape subsequent to his arrival, which events constituted approximately 90 percent of the videotape's contents, testified not only to the accuracy and completeness of the videotape's depiction of the events he had witnessed, but also to arrest scene statements made to him by the arresting officer as to the facts of defendant's having committed violations of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. Those statements, which are admissible at a suppression hearing to prove any material fact (CPL 710.60 [4]; People v Edwards, 95 NY2d 486, 491 [2000]; People v Parris, 83 NY2d 342, 347 [1994]; People v Heller, 28 Misc 3d 138[A], 2010 NY Slip Op 51463[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2010]), corresponded to the content of the tape that preceded the second officer's arrival. The admissibility of the videotape was further supported by the testimony of the second officer, who, as an operator of the videotaping system, could testify as to the system's general reliability (see People v Patterson, 93 NY2d 80 [1999]).

In view of the foregoing, we are satisfied that the hearing evidence, considered as a whole, provided " reasonable assurances' that the camera recorded reliably and that the videotape accurately depicted the events that it purported to depict" (People v Campbell, 24 Misc 3d 82, 84 [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2009], quoting People v Hawkins, 11 NY3d 484, 494 [2008]), and provided a basis for the conclusion that the initial stop of defendant's vehicle was justified by the officer's observation that defendant had committed a traffic infraction (People v Robinson, 97 NY2d 341, 348-349 [2001]; People v Hughes, 68 AD3d 894, 895 [2009]).

Accordingly, the order is reversed, the motion to suppress evidence is denied, the accusatory instruments are reinstated, and the matter is remitted to the Justice Court for all further proceedings.

Molia, J.P., Nicolai and Iannacci, JJ., concur.

Decision Date: January 30, 2012

20120130

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