Legal Analysis of Police-Citizen Encounters in New York
In People v. DeBour, 40 NY2d 210, 352 N.E.2d 562, 386 N.Y.S.2d 375 (1976), the Court of Appeals set forth a graduated four level test by which police-citizen encounters are to analyzed.
Specifically, a level one encounter permits the police to approach a citizen and request information if the police have an objective, credible reason not necessarily indicative of criminal activity.
A level two encounter permits the police to conduct a common law right of inquiry (a more intrusive inquiry than permitted under Level I) where the police have a founded suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.
A level three encounter permits the police to detain and even conduct a frisk for weapons where the police have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being or is about to be committed.
A level four encounter permits the police to arrest a person where the police have probable cause to believe that the person committed a crime.
The Court of Appeals established a four-tiered approach for police conduct when encountering individuals.
The first level of intrusion permits a law enforcement officer to approach and request information provided there is an objective, credible, and articulable reason not necessarily indicative of criminality.
The second level, the common-law right of inquiry, permits a momentary stop when there is a "founded suspicion that criminal activity is afoot".
The third level is where an officer has a reasonable suspicion that an individual has been involved in criminal activity, the officer may forcibly stop and detain that person.
Finally, at level four, an officer may effectuate an arrest when there is probable cause to believe that an individual has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime (id. at 223).