Does Handcuffing a Person Amount to Arrest ?

In People v. Allende, 39 NY2d 474), the police received a report of an armed robbery in progress. The report described that each of the four perpetrators was armed with two guns apiece. The defendant and three other men were seen running away from the direction of the robbery. The officers exited their unmarked patrol car, identified themselves and approached the four men for questioning. The four scattered and fled. With backup called, the defendant was apprehended scaling a wall in a dark alley. He was handcuffed. Immediately after being handcuffed, but prior to being questioned, he spontaneously admitted his complicity in the robbery. The Court of Appeals found that under the circumstances of this case, the handcuffing did not amount to an arrest. It held the police were entitled to handcuff the defendant to effect his nonarrest detention in order to ensure their own safety while they removed him to a more suitable location (from the dark alley) to pat him down for weapons. In other words, the application of handcuffs was not dispositive of whether the detention of a suspect on reasonable suspicion has been elevated into a full-blown arrest. This case clearly suggests that the gratuitous use of handcuffs, not warranted by any threat, or their prolonged use after the threat justifying the use of handcuffs in the first place, may be dispositive of that question. (There was a dissent.) In People v. Hicks (68 NY2d 234, 239, supra), referring to Dunaway v. New York (442 US 200), and People v. Yukl (25 NY2d 585), the Court notes, "even without a technical formal arrest, a suspect's detention may in fact be the equivalent of an arrest, requiring probable cause." No checklist has been devised to answer when a given set of circumstances equals an arrest. Neither subjective belief of the police nor that of the defendant governs. Citing the Yukl standard of " 'what a reasonable man, innocent of any crime, would have thought had he been in the defendant's position,' " the Hicks Court noted that defendant was not handcuffed, there was no show of force, he was permitted to park his car, he was not taken to the station, the time was brief, he was told the purpose of his detention, and no questions were asked of him after the initial inquiry. (People v. Hicks, at 240.)