The First Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Webber, determined that the police had probable cause to arrest defendant at the time defendant was seized and searched. Therefore defendant’s suppression motion was properly denied. The court noted that the distress signal made by the undercover officer together with the observation by Officer Regina of a group of men near the undercover officer yelling provided reasonable suspicion. Seeing defendant struggling with the undercover officer and the defendant’s breaking free and running when an officer attempted to restrain him provided probable cause for arrest. The First Department further determined the suppression hearing was properly reopened to allow the People to present additional testimony. The evidence at the reopened hearing provided another lawful basis for defendant’s arrest (the defendant had forcibly taken property from the undercover officer–probable cause imputed to the arresting officer by the fellow officer rule):
While Regina’s testimony established the requisite probable cause to arrest defendant, the court providently exercised its discretion in granting the People’s motion to reopen the suppression hearing before rendering a decision in order to permit the People to call an officer with additional information tending to establish reasonable suspicion … .The court had not made any ruling, and the circumstances did not pose a risk of tailored testimony.
Upon granting the People’s motion to present additional evidence, the court expressly stated that it had not yet rendered a decision … . Despite defendant’s arguments to the contrary, there is nothing in the hearing transcript to suggest that the court previously forecasted its decision or provided guidance to the People. The court’s very brief remark at the end of the initial hearing about an aspect of the facts cannot be viewed as “direction from the court” … , and was highly unlikely to result in tailored testimony … .
The evidence adduced at the reopened hearing established another lawful basis for defendant’s arrest. The undercover officer testified that, as he was attempting to buy drugs from another person, defendant interfered and forcibly took property from the officer. This gave the undercover officer probable cause to arrest defendant for robbery, which may be imputed to the arresting officer by way of the fellow officer rule … . The combination of the undercover officer’s distress signal, the field team officers’ observation of defendant in a struggle with the undercover officer, and the undercover officer’s act of chasing defendant satisfied the requirement that the arresting officer act on “direction of” or “communication with” a fellow officer … . The court’s general finding of probable cause can be reasonably interpreted as encompassing this theory … . People v Fraser, 2020 NY Slip Op 01037, First Dept 2-13-20