NY Court: Police Needed Warrant To Take Clothes

ALBANY (AP) -

New York’s highest court on Tuesday threw out the gun possession conviction of a man because police didn’t get his permission or a warrant to take his clothes as evidence after they were removed from him when he came to a hospital wounded.

An officer’s 2010 examination of Oscar Sanders’ clothing, left in a clear plastic bag in a trauma room at Jamaica Hospital in Queens, violated his rights against unreasonable search, the Court of Appeals ruled. The clothes were used as evidence in a trial, though his attorney tried to have them barred.

Warrantless searches require that police are lawfully in a place when they see an object, have lawful access to it and its “incriminating nature is immediately apparent,” the court said.

There was no evidence to support the conclusion that the investigating officer had “probable cause to believe that defendant’s clothes were the instrumentality of a crime,” Judge Eugene Fahey wrote.

The case was sent back to the trial court in Queens.