The Fourth Department determined the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion defendant was committing a crime and had no reasonable basis to suspect he was in danger at the time he frisked the defendant:
It is well established that, in evaluating the legality of police conduct, we “must determine whether the action taken was justified in its inception and at every subsequent stage of the encounter” (…People v De Bour, 40 NY2d 210, 215). In De Bour, the Court of Appeals “set forth a graduated four-level test for evaluating street encounters initiated by the police: level one permits a police officer to request information from an individual and merely requires that the request be supported by an objective, credible reason, not necessarily indicative of criminality; level two, the common-law right of inquiry, permits a somewhat greater intrusion and requires a founded suspicion that criminal activity is afoot; level three authorizes an officer to forcibly stop and detain an individual, and requires a reasonable suspicion that the particular individual was involved in a felony or misdemeanor; [and] level four, arrest, requires probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed a crime” (People v Moore, 6 NY3d 496, 498-499).
Here, contrary to defendant’s contention, we conclude that the information provided in the 911 dispatch coupled with the officers’ observations provided the police with “an objective, credible reason for initially approaching defendant and requesting information from him” … . The officers pulled up next to defendant and, without exiting the vehicle, asked to see defendant’s identification and asked defendant where he was going and where he was coming from, which was a permissible level one intrusion … .
Contrary to the further contention of defendant, we conclude that his failure to answer the officers’ questions about where he was going and where he was coming from, when added to the information acquired from the police dispatch and defendant’s heightened interest in the patrol car, created a “founded suspicion that criminality [was] afoot,” justifying a level two intrusion … . The common-law right of inquiry “authorized the police to ask questions of defendant—and to follow defendant while attempting to engage him—but not to seize him in order to do so” … . The police therefore acted lawfully in following defendant for the purpose of obtaining an answer to their valid questions about his whereabouts. The encounter, however, quickly escalated to a level three intrusion when one of the officers grabbed defendant’s hand and patted the outside of his pants pocket. “[A] stop and frisk is a more obtrusive procedure than a mere request for information or a stop invoking the common-law right of inquiry, and as such normally must be founded on a reasonable suspicion that the particular person has committed or is about to commit a crime” … . ” [W]here no more than a common-law right to inquire exists, a frisk must be based upon a reasonable suspicion that the officers are in physical danger and that defendant poses a threat to their safety’ “* * * …[U]nlike in other cases where we have sanctioned a frisk for weapons, there was no evidence in this case that defendant refused to comply with the officers’ directives or that he made any furtive, suspicious, or threatening movements … . Indeed, under the circumstances of this case, the presence of defendant’s hand in his left pants pocket was particularly innocuous and ” readily susceptible of an innocent interpretation’ ” … . Defendant retrieved his identification from his left pants pocket and returned it to that pocket after complying with the officers’ request to produce identification … .
We therefore conclude that, “[b]ecause the officer lacked reasonable suspicion that defendant was committing a crime and had no reasonable basis to suspect that he was in danger of physical injury, . . . the ensuing pat frisk of defendant was unlawful” … . People v Burnett, 2015 NY Slip Op 02613, 4th Dept 3-27-15