Police Did Not Have Sufficient Information to Justify Pursuit of Defendant; Street Stop (DeBour) Criteria Clearly Explained
The Second Department determined defendant’s motion to suppress the weapon he discarded during a police pursuit should have been granted. The police approached defendant after seeing him make several adjustments to his waistband. When defendant ran, the police pursued him. Because the police, based on their observations, could make only a level one inquiry (which the defendant had a right to ignore), the pursuit was not justified. The court offered a clear explanation of the criteria for street stops (DeBour criteria):
“On a motion to suppress physical evidence, the People bear the burden of going forward to establish the legality of police conduct in the first instance” … , the Court of Appeals established a graduated four-level test for evaluating the propriety of police encounters when a police officer is acting in a law enforcement capacity … . The first level 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 … . The second level, known as the common-law right of inquiry, requires a founded suspicion that criminal activity is afoot, and permits a somewhat greater intrusion … . The third level permits a police officer to forcibly stop and detain an individual. Such a detention, however, is not permitted unless there is a reasonable suspicion that an individual is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime … . The fourth level authorizes an arrest based on probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime … .
In order to justify police pursuit, the officers must have “reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed” … . Reasonable suspicion has been defined as “that quantum of knowledge sufficient to induce an ordinarily prudent and cautious person under the circumstances to believe criminal activity is at hand” … . A suspect’s “[f]light alone . . . even [his or her flight] in conjunction with equivocal circumstances that might justify a police request for information, is insufficient to justify pursuit” … . However, flight, “combined with other specific circumstances indicating that the suspect may be engaged in criminal activity, could provide the predicate necessary to justify pursuit” … . People v Clermont, 2015 NY Slip Op 07989, 2nd Dept 11-4-15