On May 23, 2008, police officers responded to a burglary reported in a Bronx apartment building. The 911 caller described the suspects as two Latino males, around 5'9" to 5'11".
Two officers saw a Latino woman and man in the lobby. The building superintendent, also in the lobby, pointed at the pair and made a face that the officers "interpreted as a request for the police to stop them," according to court documents. The police questioned the woman, Josefina Jimenez, and found her answers suspicious: "while she initially stated that she was there to visit a friend, she then claimed she was in search of a notary, but could provide neither names nor apartment numbers associated therewith. There were 'No Trespassing' signs posted in the lobby."
By this time, at least four other officers had arrived on the scene. They arrested Jimenez and the man for trespassing. One officer took Jimenez's purse off her shoulder, opened it, and found a loaded handgun. A jury convicted Jimenez of criminal possession of a weapon and criminal trespassing in the first degree--first degree because of the firearm.
The search that led to the gun, however, was unconstitutional, according to the state's highest court. The New York Court of Appeals ruled, in a 4-3 split decision released on Tuesday, that the circumstances surrounding Jimenez's arrest did not give police the right to search her purse without a warrant. More »