“Rant” Against Police Officers Was Not “Disorderly Conduct”

In People v. Gonzalez, 2015 Slip Op 05515 (June 25, 2015), the New York Court of Appeals held that a motion to suppress an illegal knife should have been granted, where the basis for the initial police stop – “disorderly conduct”, codified at NY Penal Law § 240.20(3) – was not supported by probable cause.

Here are the facts:

Defendant shouted obscenities at police officers in a subway station in Manhattan, provoking looks of surprise and curiosity from some passengers and evasive movements from others. The officers followed defendant to another level of the station, where a police sergeant prevented him from leaving. The sergeant observed an illegal knife on defendant’s person and arrested him.

The parties agreed that “if the police had probable cause to arrest the defendant for disorderly conduct[], the detention would have been justified.”

The court held that they didn’t and it wasn’t:

[T]here is no record support for the motion court’s determination that defendant’s rant against the police officers constituted the crime of disorderly conduct. [A] person may be guilty of disorderly conduct only when the situation extends beyond the exchange between the individual disputants to a point where it becomes a potential or immediate public problem.

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