The Fourth Department, over a two-justice dissent, determined the police, after interviewing a citizen informant who walked into the police station, had reasonable suspicion to approach a van in which the defendant was sleeping. Thereafter the police were justified in asking the defendant to step out of the van for safety reasons and in arresting the defendant when an officer saw a handgun in defendant’s waistband. The dissent argued the informant (who identified himself to the police but was not identified to the defendant) did not provide sufficiently detailed information to justify approaching the van:
…[T]he testimony of a police officer during the suppression hearing established that a citizen informant walked into a police station at 4:30 a.m. and reported that two men had “ripped him off” during “a drug deal gone wrong.” The informant, who identified himself by name to the officer but whose identity was not disclosed to defendant, appeared to be angry and upset and did not seem to be intoxicated. The informant alleged, inter alia, that the two men were in a purple minivan at a specific address on Stevens Street in the City of Buffalo, and that “there were drugs in the vehicle” and one of the men “was holding [a] handgun in his lap.” The police officer interviewed the informant for 10 to 15 minutes, during which time the officer had an opportunity to evaluate his reliability on the basis of his appearance and demeanor … . The informant’s reliability was enhanced because he identified himself to the officer and reported that he had attempted to take part in a drug transaction, thus making a declaration against penal interest and subjecting himself to potential prosecution for his own criminal activity … . The informant also waited at the police station while officers investigated the allegations, thereby subjecting himself to “the criminal sanctions attendant upon falsely reporting information to the authorities” … . Thus, we conclude that the People established the reliability of the informant by establishing that the officer obtained information from him during a face-to-face encounter … , and that information did not constitute an anonymous tip … .
From the dissent:
… [A]lthough the majority relies on the ability of the police “to evaluate [the] reliability [of the informant]” during face-to-face contact … , the testimony of the police officer who met the informant reveals that the officer lacked sufficient information to make such an evaluation. The officer believed that the informant appeared agitated, and conceded that he did not know whether the informant was sober. The informant offered the officer no description of the men who purportedly “ripped him off” or how the alleged drug deal had gone wrong, and the officer testified that he never even asked the informant when that incident took place. Instead, the informant offered no more than the description of the outside of a vehicle … . People v Edwards, 2020 NY Slip Op 05672, Fourth Dept 10-9-20