People v. Adams, Ind. No. 00494 /2020

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New York)
Writing for the CourtLester B. Adler, J.
Citation73 Misc.3d 614,153 N.Y.S.3d 817
Decision Date20 September 2021
Docket NumberInd. No. 00494 /2020
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Plaintiff, v. James ADAMS, Defendant.

73 Misc.3d 614
153 N.Y.S.3d 817

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Plaintiff,
James ADAMS, Defendant.

Ind. No. 00494 /2020

Supreme Court, Bronx County, New York.

Decided on September 20, 2021

153 N.Y.S.3d 819

THE LEGAL AID SOCIETY (by William Woods & Jane White, Esqs.), Attorney for Defendant

OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY, BRONX CO. (by Jennifer Leung, Esq.), Attorney for the People

Lester B. Adler, J.

73 Misc.3d 615

Defendant stands indicted for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and related charges. In connection therewith, defendant moved to suppress (1) a loaded firearm and other physical evidence and (2) certain statements he made to officers on the ground, among other things, that they were the result of his illegal arrest. The court directed a pre-trial Mapp/Dunaway/Huntley suppression hearing, over which this court presided on August 17 and 18, 2021.

Findings of fact — The following findings are based on the hearing testimony of NYPD Officers Jarren Smalls, Gina Mestre, and Ryan Cotter and other submitted evidence, including video from officers’ body cameras:1 In the early morning of August 23, 2020, NYPD Officers Smalls, Cotter, and Tuma and Sergeant Allifi, all of the 52nd precinct, were patrolling Bronx County in an unmarked police vehicle. The officers were in uniform; Cotter drove, while Smalls sat in the rear passengers’ seat. At about 1:17 a.m., the officers observed a large group "drinking and smoking [marijuana]" on the sidewalk in front of 2951 Briggs Avenue, which Smalls described as a "high crime location." Smalls

153 N.Y.S.3d 820

testified that, when defendant saw the officers’ vehicle, he separated from the group and briskly walked away, heading north on Briggs Avenue. In testimony, Cotter and Smalls acknowledged that they had not

73 Misc.3d 616

seen defendant himself engage in any criminal activity while a member of the group or when he left the area (tr at 7, lines 7-8; at 42, lines 3-12; at 43, lines 13-15; at 109, lines 4-12).

Smalls described defendant's behavior as he walked from the area as follows:

"He had a fanny pack across his chest, a black and white fanny pack. He ... began to maneuver the fanny pack underneath his shoulder ... As he's briskly walking away, he's walking closer to the wall, blading his body, trying to conceal his right side of his body while looking over his shoulder at us."

Cotter drove the vehicle around the block to intercept defendant. When the officers reached defendant, Cotter rolled down a window and said "Police." Defendant ran away from the police vehicle, and Smalls exited the vehicle and chased defendant on foot. While running, defendant allegedly un-clipped his fanny pack and let it fall to the ground, and then he "reache[d] towards the right side of his waistband and produce[d] an object and drop[ped] the object [on] the ground."

After chasing defendant for half a block over about ten seconds, Smalls apprehended him at the corner of Briggs Avenue and Kingsbridge Road. Smalls and other officers canvassed the area and recovered the fanny pack which defendant had dropped, containing synthetic marijuana and heroin, from behind the tire of a parked vehicle. Mestre, who had been called to the scene to help collect evidence, recovered a bag containing a loaded firearm from underneath another vehicle parked on Briggs Avenue.

After defendant's arrest, he made statements to Officer Cotter in the police vehicle and at the 52nd precinct. The People have noticed defendant of their intent to use his statements in their case-in-chief.

Discussion — On a motion to suppress evidence, the People bear the burden of going forward to establish the legality of police conduct in the first instance" ( People v. Berrios , 28 N.Y.2d 361, 367-368, 321 N.Y.S.2d 884, 270 N.E.2d 709 [1971] ). The question is whether the encounter, which culminated with the police pursuing, forcibly stopping, and detaining defendant, comported with the four-level standard for intrusive conduct which the Court of Appeals set forth in People v. De Bour, 40 N.Y.2d 210, 223, 386 N.Y.S.2d 375, 352 N.E.2d 562 (1976). The first level of

73 Misc.3d 617

intrusion permits an officer to approach a citizen to request information "when there is some objective credible reason for that interference, not necessarily indicative of criminality" ( id. ). The second level, the common-law right of inquiry, permits an officer "to interfere with a citizen to the extent necessary to gain explanatory information, but short of a forcible seizure, when there is "a founded suspicion that criminality is afoot" ( id. ). The third level permits "a forcible stop and detention" of a citizen if an officer "entertains a reasonable suspicion that [the citizen] has committed, is committing or is about to commit a felony or misdemeanor" ( id. ). Finally, the fourth level permits an officer to arrest a citizen if the officer has probable cause to believe that the citizen has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime ( id. ).

In evaluating whether an officer's intrusion was justified, a court must consider the totality of the circumstances that were presented to the officer (see People v. Graham , 211 A.D.2d 55, 626 N.Y.S.2d 95 [1st Dept. 1995], lv denied 86 N.Y.2d 795, 632 N.Y.S.2d 508, 656 N.E.2d...

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