DWI SERIES---ISSUES FROM THE STOP TO THE ARREST
This guide explains some basic concepts related to police-civilian street encounters. It will educate you on when a police officer can stop you and what information he/she needs before they can legally approach you in public.
WHEN CAN A POLICE OFFICER APPROACH A VEHICLE THAT IS STOPPED BUT NOT PARKED?This issue was addressed in People v. Ocasio, 85 N.Y.2d 982 (1995). In Ocasio, two police officers walked up to a motorist's vehicle which was stopped at a red light. The officers tapped on the window, displayed their badges and asked the motorist for identification. The Court of Appeals laid out the factors to be considered in determining whether such a "stop" is permissible:
To determine whether a "seizure" had occurred here, where the car was neither parked nor moving requires the fact finder to apply a reasonable person standard: in other words, whether a reasonable person would have believed, under the circumstances, that the officer's conduct was a significant limitation on his or her freedom That involves consideration of all the facts...for example, was there a chase, were lights, sirens or a loudspeaker used; was the officer's gun drawn, was the individual prevented from moving; how many verbal commands were given; what was the tone and content of the command; how many officers were involved, where did the encounter take place.
Considering these factors, the Court held that:
"While there may be instances in which approach of a car at a stoplight constitutes a seizure, the courts below, having considered the relevant factors, found no seizure."
OTHER INSTANCES OF WHEN A POLICE OFFICER CAN APPROACH A VEHICLE THAT IS STOPED BUT NOT PARKEDIn People v. Thomas, 19 A.D.3d 32 (1st Dep't., 2005), it was held that "police officers are entitled to conduct a DeBour Level One inquiry (aka, a request for information) of a person at the wheel of a stationary car that is blocking a fire hydrant." The Court further held that "in concluding that the officer is justified in asking to see the license, we are influenced by the consideration that a person who stops a car alongside a fire hydrant plainly invites and should reasonably expect an interaction with law enforcement."