Police Were Justified In Questioning Defendant’s Presence In Lobby of an Apartment Building Enrolled in the “Trespass Affidavit Program (TAP)”
The Court of Appeals, in a full-fledged opinion by Judge Fahey, over an extensive dissenting opinion by Judge Rivera (in which Judge Lippman concurred), determined a police officer had the right to question defendant about his presence in the lobby of an apartment building. After defendant stated he did not live in the building and could not identify a resident who invited him there, he was arrested for trespass and a razor blade was seized from his pocket, The building was enrolled in the “trespass affidavit program (TAP)” which was described as a solicitation of police assistance for dealing with trespassers. The police officers entered the building to conduct a floor by floor search for trespassers:
Our analysis begins with the points “that whether police conduct in any particular case conforms to De Bour is a mixed question of law and fact,” and that, in such circumstances, “our review is limited to whether there is evidence in the record supporting the lower courts’ determinations” … . On the merits, our analysis proceeds under the first of the four levels of De Bour, which sets a low bar for an initial encounter: it “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” … .
Here the record reflects that the encounter occurred in a private space restricted by signage and a lock, and that police assistance in combating trespassing had been sought through enrollment in the TAP. Put simply, the coupling of defendant’s presence in the subject building with the private and protected nature of that location supports the intrusion giving rise to what became the seizure in question. We conclude that there is record support for the determination that the police had an objective credible reason to request information from defendant … .
In so concluding we note that the police patrol at issue here was intended in part to combat trespassing, that is, “knowingly enter[ing] or remain[ing] unlawfully in or upon a premises” (Penal Law § 140.05), that the building at issue was enrolled in the TAP for the purpose of addressing that problem, and that this branch of the TAP is rooted in tenant protection throughout Manhattan. Under these circumstances a police officer could have identified a trespasser only by requesting information. People v Barksdale, 2015 NY Slip Op 07694, CtApp 10-22-15