Court upholds impounded car, gun charge

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York State Police can impound a borrowed car when the driver is arrested at a traffic stop instead of letting a licensed passenger drive it away, New York’s top court ruled Monday.

The Court of Appeals upheld Samuel Walker’s conviction and prison sentence of three-and-a-half years for the handgun found on the floorboard when the car was searched for inventory.

He was stopped in October 2009 in Buffalo, driving his sister’s car. The trooper said his passenger, later identified as Walker’s girlfriend, wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Walker was initially arrested for misdemeanor aggravated unlicensed driving since his license was revoked due to an insurance lapse.

The court unanimously rejected Walker’s argument that the impoundment and search were unreasonable since the trooper didn’t ask whether his passenger was licensed and authorized to drive the car.

According to the court, there have been other inconsistent rulings in similar cases. The six judges said an impoundment search must be done according to procedures preventing police abuse, while acknowledging the State Police written policy was never put into evidence here.

Calls to state police about the policy were not immediately returned.

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