Tuesday, February 17, 2009

COA: Evidence Suppressed After Police Exceed Scope of Investigatory Detention

In People v. Ricky Ryan, the police learned that there had been an early-morning carjacking, and based upon the descriptions and circumstances, suspected Mr. Ryan. Five hours after the carjacking, the police approached Mr. Ryan, asked him to be seated in the backseat of a police car, photographed him, and held him while the victim of the car-jacking viewed the photo. The entire process took 13 minutes, and Mr. Ryan was never informed that he was free to leave or that he would be free to leave in the immediate future. The police further told Mr. Ryan that he was being held while the police were speaking to another potential witness. Mr. Ryan later confessed to the carjacking.

Judge Ciparick, writing for a unanimous court, reversed the conviction and stated in relevant part:
"Proper administration of the photo array did not require defendant's presence and, in fact, the police officer did not even know that the non-victim witness had become available to view the photo array when defendant's detention began. Nor were there any other exigencies that might have permitted holding defendant while the photo array was conducted (cf. People v Allen, 73 NY2d 378, 379-380 [1989]; People v Behrmann, 264 AD2d 682, 682 [1st Dept 1999]). Thus, the only permissible inference that can be drawn is that this detention was undertaken simply to make it convenient for the police to arrest defendant if a positive identification subsequently occurred (see People v Robinson, 282 AD2d 75, 81 [1st Dept 2001] ["What the police did here, as a practical matter, was to place defendant under arrest in order to obtain sufficient evidence to arrest him"]). Accordingly, we conclude that, on the facts present here, defendant's detention exceeded the scope permitted under Hicks and that the photographs obtained during that detention must be suppressed."
The court suppressed the photographs, but remanded the case for an attentuation hearing regarding Mr. Ryan's statements.