Thursday, August 10, 2006

AD4: not all blue cars are created equal

People v Taylor, 2006 NY Slip Op 05429 [available here]

At about 10:30 p.m., a police radio call "reported that 'two male blacks' . . . had committed an armed robbery in the area of Conkey Avenue and were observed leaving the scene in a 'light blue Ford Contour'". (People v Taylor, cite.) About 2 1/2 hours later, police officers "observed a light blue Mercury Mystique containing two occupants at the intersection of Clifford Avenue and Conkey Avenue." (Id.) Although not able "to discern the race of the occupants", the police pulled over the Mystique with the stated intention to identify the occupants and question them about the robbery. (Id. at __.) The trial court upheld the stop, and the Fourth Department reversed; from the AD4 decision:

It is well settled that the police may stop a vehicle based upon a "reasonable suspicion that the driver or occupants of the vehicle have committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime". [...] Here, the facts known to the police, along with any rational inferences to be drawn therefrom, were insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion that the driver or occupants of the vehicle had committed the robbery. Indeed, the stated purpose of the stop was to "identify the occupants of the vehicle" and to "ask them if they had possibly known anything" about the robbery, and we thus conclude that the stop was not based on the requisite reasonable suspicion.

(Id. at __ [citations omitted].)

As a someone who drives, I find it comforting that the Fourth Department has ruled that you cannot be stopped and questioned by the police for driving the same color car as a suspected criminal.