Newburgh City Traffic Stop Turns up Loaded Handgun

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Once considered the Jewel of the Hudson, Newburgh is becoming one of the most violent cities in the nation. Through patrols and various initiatives, including the Special Traffic Options Program (STOP), Newburgh police have seen it all.

Last February, after receiving a call about an erratic driver, uniformed officers arrested a 58 year-old male for something more serious than failing to yield. Finding a .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun with six rounds of ammunition resting on the man's car seat, the officers arrested the Newburgh man for felony weapon possession.

That arrest is not an isolated incident for the Newburgh police. Weeks earlier a taxi passenger faced weapons charges after being found in possession of a loaded World War II era submachine gun. Also in late February, four men were arrested when a loaded .375 revolver and additional rounds of ammunition were found on the floor of the car in which they were traveling.

Traffic stops are common. Still, being stopped by the police can be a nerve-racking experience. While police officers have a responsibility to keep our communities, including our roads, safe, some drivers feel intimidated by a policeman's authority. However, drivers and passengers do have specific rights.

In the absence of consent or a search warrant, a law enforcement officer has a limited ability to search a private citizen's vehicle. Under the "Plain View Doctrine," officers can scan the interior. If there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity-probable cause-following that scan, an officer can search a vehicle and ask occupants to exit it.

While an officer can pat down occupants, he or she cannot search through clothing pockets or compartments. When questioned, drivers are not obligated to answer beyond questions related to the traffic offense. However, refusing certain requests, such as taking breathalyzers, could result in arrest or other criminal penalties. Many state laws mandate that passengers identify themselves to officers. When the passenger is not the subject of the valid traffic stop and there is no reasonable suspicion of passenger criminal wrongdoing, there is no requirement to answer questions.

Citizens are afforded specific protections against unlawful searches and seizures that can occur during traffic stops. Knowing your rights is the best way to be protected against legal harm.