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REASONABLE SUSPICION TO STOP A VEHICLE: POLICE APPROACH PARKED CAR AND IT PULLS AWAY

If you a charged with an offense such as Driving While Intoxicated, weapons offense (guns, etc) or controlled substance offense (cocaine, crack, marijuana etc), one of the first areas a criminal defense attorney will look at is why the police stopped you in the first instance. In other words, what brought about that initial contact between you and the police? If the stop was illegal, all evidence, including observations, obtained as a result of that illegal stop should be suppressed.
In New York, an officer may approach an individual sitting in a parked car and request information provided they have an articulable reason not necessarily related to criminal activity. For example, in a case discussed in a prior blog, despite the fact that it is legal to do so, officers may approach an individual sitting in the driver’s seat of a car parked in front of a fire hydrant and request the that person’s license and pedigree information. People v. Thomas, 19 A.D.3d 32, (1st 2005). In New York, this is referred to as a “Request for Information”.
Obviously an officer cannot request information from a person in a moving car; that car must be stopped first. In order to legally stop a vehicle, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a person in that vehicle was involved in a felony or a misdemeanor or that the vehicle committed a traffic infraction. In New York, this is referred to a “Stop”. Therefore, what if that parked car in Thomas had started to pull away just as the officer had pulled up? The officer would have had to actually stop that car.
In People v. May, 81 N.Y.2d 725 (1992), the police approached a car parked on desolate street in a known drug area. Just as the police pulled up on the parked car, it slowly pulled away at which time the officers activated their emergency lights and stopped the vehicle. The officers subsequently learned that the vehicle was stolen and upon a search of the driver after his arrest, drugs were found. The Court of Appeals held that the stop was illegal because, once the vehicle pulled away, the officers needed reasonable suspicion that a crime had been or was about to be committed. The evidence, ruled the Court, should have been suppressed.
For more information, or if you have been arrested in New York, call Tilem & Campbell toll free at 1-877-377-8666 or visit us on the web at www.tilemandcampbell.com.