Third Search of a Juvenile, detained for riding his bike the wrong way, Upheld by Court of Appeals as Reasonable

In the Matter of Jamal S, ” Officer Leo and his partner were on patrol when they observed respondent Jamal S. and his companion riding their bicycles against the flow of traffic on a one-way street.” As so many others in New York City, the juvenile was stopped, he was questioned and, because he did not have identification (and likely due to his suspected age), he was taken to the police precinct. While “Officer Leo intended to issue respondent a summons for disorderly conduct (Penal Law § 240.20 [7]),” an exercise in discretion results in “the officers patt[ing] him down, plac[ing] him in handcuffs and transport[ing] him to the precinct. When he arrived at the precinct at approximately 11:00 p.m., he was searched a second time.” He was searched and searched again. The Court of Appeals defines the issue  as “whether the police had the authority to arrest respondent and whether the subsequent search of his shoes was reasonable.”

On the merits, we agree with Family Court that the officers’ initial arrest of respondent was lawful in light of what they believed at the time (cf. Matter of Victor M., 9 NY3d 84, 87 [2007] [holding that a warrantless arrest of juvenile for committing violations was improper where the juvenile was 15 years old at the time of the arrest and there was “no evidence in the record that the officer believed or had reason to believe that he was older”]). We also conclude that the limited search of respondent’s shoes was reasonable. The majority found no fault with the request that respondent remove his belt and shoelaces as a safety precaution; rather it was the request to remove his shoes that the majority held to be “far more intrusive than a frisk or patdown” (123 AD3d at 431 [citation omitted]). However, the officers were not first required to suspect that respondent either possessed contraband or posed a danger to himself or officers before being directed to remove his shoes. In that regard, the limited search of respondent’s shoes while he was temporarily detained and awaiting the notification of his parents was a reasonable protective measure employed by police to ensure both the safety of respondent and the officers, and the intrusion was minimal (see generally [*4]Matter of Shamel C., 254 AD2d 87, 87 [1st Dept 1998]).

After three searches, they found a weapon in his shoe. Remember, that this is a juvenile accused of riding a bicycle the wrong way. He spent over a year in a facility. While the Order of the Appellate Division is reversed and the disposition of the Bronx Family Court reinstated, Judge Jenny Rivera issues a notable dissent:

In this case the dissent and majority’s conclusions do not depend on the application of different legal standards. Indeed, there is no dispute of law between the dissent and the majority. Rather, the disagreement that animates the dual dissent is whether the search of this respondent was reasonable “considering the totality of the circumstances,” as the dissent termed it (Matter of Jamal S., 123 AD3d 429, 433 [1st Dept 2014]). The dissent’s conclusions as to the reasonableness of the search turn on the meaning attached to the facts and the inferences to be drawn concerning the propriety of respondent’s arrest, transport to the precinct, continued detention, and finally the search itself. That is, the dissenters, “draw . . . different inference[s] from the established facts [than the majority did], thus deciding [only] mixed question[s] of law and fact” (People v Brown, 25 NY3d 973, 976 [2015]). Unlike the Appellate Division majority, the dissent inferred that it was reasonable for the police to doubt respondent was 15 years old, given the facts that at the time of his arrest he told the police he was 16 and then failed to present identification to support his later claim that he was only 15. Further, and contrary to the majority’s view that respondent’s encounter with the police “began with the detention of a juvenile who did nothing more than ride a bicycle in the wrong direction on a roadway,” the dissenters found that respondent had committed disorderly conduct, which merited an arrest in light of respondent’s claim to be 16. Based upon the fact that respondent initially lied about his age, the dissent inferred that his presence in the precinct was “largely . . . a result of his own misrepresentation” (Matter of Jamal S., 123 AD3d at 434). The dissent also had no quarrel with the intentional overnight delay in releasing respondent to his mother prior to the search, yet the majority found the record lacked an explanation for such delay when respondent’s mother told the arresting officer at 11 p.m. that she would pick him up, and the officer told her to instead “come in the morning.”

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