In a case where the defendant faced a burglary charge, the Supreme Court, Erie County, granted the defendant’s motion seeking to suppress physical evidence and statements on the ground that the police lacked justification for detaining and searching him. The People appealed the decision.
There is a well-established test for determining whether the police can lawfully stop, search and detain a person. Under People v. DeBour, 40 NY2d 210 (1976), the police can stop and request information from a person if there is a good, objective reason to do so. The police can question the person if he or she has a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The police have the right to forcibly stop and detain a person if there exists a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a crime or is about to commit a crime. If the police have probable cause to believe that the person has committed a crime, then the police can arrest the person.
In People v. Nazario, the incident leading up to the defendant’s arrest started when the arresting officer responded to a call regarding a burglary in progress. The officer had also viewed a “be on the lookout” (BOLO) photograph depicting a man who may have been involved in a prior burglary. Three blocks from the burglary scene, the officer noticed the defendant walking alone carrying a bag and a cell phone. When the officer asked the defendant what he was doing, he responded that the was looking through garbage cans. The officer searched defendant’s bag purportedly to check for weapons. He then drove the defendant back to the scene of the burglary to figure out if he was a suspect in the burglary. At the scene a showup identification was conducted. A showup is a form of eyewitness identification during which the police present a single suspect to an eyewitness and ask the eyewitness whether the suspect is the offender. The witness identified the defendant as the burglar, and the defendant was arrested and later charged