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11/24/2018
New York Rejects Customs Agent Traffic Stop
Judge throws out the evidence seized in a New York traffic stop by a federal customs agent who had no jurisdiction.

Limmia PageA federal customs agent has no business conducting traffic stops in New York. The state's intermediate court earlier this month ordered all charges against Limmia Page dropped because he never should have been pulled over by a US Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations officer.

On June 5, 2017, Agent Robert Kanazi was doing marina checks when he allegedly noticed Page's vehicle making "dangerous" maneuvers. He decided to follow Page in his unmarked truck while calling for local police backup. Before a Buffalo officer could arrive, the agent decided to flip on his red and blue police lights and order Page to pull over.

The agent then waited at the roadside for the Buffalo police to arrive on the scene before approaching Page with the local officer. After smelling marijuana, the local police turned up a handgun in a search of Page's car, resulting in a Class C felony charge of possessing a loaded gun without a permit. As New York only issues those permits to the politically connected, Page was facing a mandatory minimum of three-and-a-half years in prison. Prosecutors insisted that, even though the agent had no jurisdiction in Erie County, the stop was a valid citizen's arrest.

"It was not a citizen's arrest," attorney Robert L. Kemp told the court in September. "If he's using his lights, it's not a citizen's arrest."

A five-judge panel sided with Page and the lower court that suppressed the evidence from the traffic stop.

"A private person, however, is not authorized to display such emergency lights from his or her private vehicle," the appellate panel ruled. "Moreover, a private person may not falsely express by words or actions that he or she is acting with approval or authority of a public agency or department with the intent to induce another to submit to such pretended official authority or to otherwise cause another to act in reliance upon that pretense."

The court found that the use of apparent authority to conduct an illegal stop was a constitutional violation calling for dismissal. A copy of the ruling is available in a 50k PDF at the source link below.

Source: New York v. Page (New York Appellate Division, Fourth Department, 11/20/2018)

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