A man’s conviction and 12-year sentence for drug and weapon possession has been put on hold after a Manhattan appellate court said a judge erred by forgoing a suppression hearing.
The Appellate Division, First Department, remanded Jamal Chamlee’s case for a hearing in the wake of Acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin’s summary denial of suppression.
Chamlee claimed police recovered drug paraphernalia and a gun after an illegal entry of his apartment.
According to the search warrant, an undercover officer saw several men outside Chamlee’s apartment smoking marijuana.
When other officers arrived, they did not see or smell marijuana. The officers identified themselves and the men ran into Chamlee’s apartment and locked the door.
One officer claimed he heard a man say “hide the gun.” When the men refused to open the door, police broke it down. They allegedly saw contraband and obtained the search warrant.
Chamlee argued unsuccessfully that misdemeanor crimes of smoking marijuana did not present exigent circumstances to justify forced entry.
The warrant application was not available to him when he sought suppression.
“Under the circumstances presented here, where the information proffered by the People to support the forcible entry was conclusory and defendant did not have access to available information, we find that it was incumbent upon the motion court to conduct a hearing to determine whether there were sufficient exigent circumstances to justify the forced warrantless entry,” the panel said in People v. Chamlee, 12955.
Presiding Justice Luis Gonzalez (See Profile) and Justices Rolando Acosta (See Profile), Leland DeGrasse (See Profile), Helen Freedman (See Profile) and Rosalyn Richter (See Profile) sat on the panel.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Patricia Curran appeared for the prosecution.
Chamlee was represented by Mark Zeno, assistant attorney-in-charge at the Center for Appellate Litigation.