As a former prosecutor in the Manhattan (New York County) District Attorney’s Office and one of the first Assistant District Attorneys in the Identity Theft Unit, I have seen a significant amount of outright stupid moves that have resulted in arrests for crimes ranging from Assault and Gun Possession to Criminal Possession of Stolen Credit Cards and Criminal Possession of Forged Instruments. Recently, in Brooklyn Supreme Court, a defendant was unable to convince the Court that that his arrest for Robbery was not supported by probable cause and that the knife recovered from his person violated his constitutional rights. His arrest and legal problems came to be because the defendant was just not thinking.
Back in January 2006, the defendant was on a subway platform urinating – the “boneheaded” move. Seeing that the defendant was violating both the Penal Law and New York City’s Administrative Code, an officer approached him and asked for identification. The defendant produced identification and later stated he was on parole. The officer then asked if the defendant had anything on him that could hurt him and the defendant produced a carpet knife. Alarmed, the officer then cuffed the defendant.
After cuffing the defendant, the officer noticed a bulge in the defendant’s pocket where he recovered a larger knife. Ultimately, the defendant was arrested and brought to Central Booking where the officer saw that he matched a sketch for a subject of a robbery. After investigating the matter further, the defendant was charged with the Penal Law Crime of Robbery.
In upholding the arrest and search of the defendant, the Court stated that probable cause existed because at the time the officer observed the defendant urinating he could have either arrested him or issued a summons. Since a “safety frisk” was authorized under these circumstances, it was acceptable that the officer asked if the defendant possessed anything that could hurt him. The Court further reasoned that once the defendant pulled out the carpet knife the officer could have cuffed him. Once doing so, the officer observed the bulge and what appeared to be a possible handle of a knife. Therefore, the officer would have been “derelict” in his duties if he ignored the bulge.
Unfortunately, the entire chain of events were put into play due to the defendant’s one initial bad decision. In the event you make a mistake that may have severe consequences, you should retain experienced counsel to attempt to fix that mistake by aggressively fighting for your rights, your freedom, and your future.