Police Stop After Suspicion of Smoking Marijuana in New York

In People v. Cantor, 36 NY2d 106, 113, 324 N.E.2d 872, 365 N.Y.S.2d 509 (1975), a police officer had observed the defendant and a female smoking cigarettes in an apartment located in Brooklyn and the police officer suspected the cigarettes were of marijuana. The defendant and this female subsequently exited the apartment and drove to Queens and three police officers wearing plainclothes traveling in two unmarked vehicles followed them. The police observed the defendant park his vehicle in front of a house which they later found out to be his home. A police officer parked the unmarked vehicle behind the defendant's vehicle and another police officer parked the other unmarked vehicle in a manner which blocked the defendant's vehicle. The three police officers approached the defendant and the defendant pointed a pistol at the police officers. Once the police officers identified themselves as police, the defendant placed the pistol in his pocket. Once the police learned that the defendant did not have a permit for the pistol, the defendant was arrested. The police recovered from the defendant barbiturates and marijuana and recovered a pipe which contained marijuana residue from the center console of the defendant's vehicle. The Court of Appeals evaluated the initial stop of the defendant and noted that the defendant was deprived of his freedom of movement when the three police officers approached him when he was standing near his vehicle which had been blocked by one of the police vehicles. The Court of Appeals concluded that the defendant had been seized by police and thus the police needed reasonable suspicion that the defendant was committing, had committed or was about to commit a crime. The Court of Appeals defined reasonable suspicion as "the quantum of knowledge sufficient to induce an ordinarily prudent and cautious man under the circumstances to believe criminal activity is at hand." (Id.) The Court of Appeals held that "to justify such an intrusion, the police officer must indicate specific and articulable facts which, along with any logical deductions, reasonably prompted that intrusion. Vague or unparticularized hunches will not suffice ." (Id.) The Court of Appeals found that the police observations in Cantor were devoid of any criminal activity and thus his seizure was unlawful.