On January 23, 1990 a police detective was looking through a one-way mirror at the passengers lined-up waiting for a bus to go to Virginia. The detective noticed a girl who looked no more than 13 years old lined up all by herself without a parent or guardian travelling with her. The detective also noticed that she had a bulge underneath her zipped-up coat.
Aware that some drug dealers used teenagers as drug mules to bring drugs across through state lines, and fearing that the teenager may be a runaway, the detective approached her and talked to her.
The detective sat behind her on the bus. The detective asked her first if she didn’t mind speaking to her and she assented. He asked her if she was travelling alone, how old she was and where she was headed. The girl confirmed that she was travelling alone and that she was on her way to visit family in Norfolk. She also claimed that she was 18 years old.
When the detective sought to confirm whom she was visiting in Norfolk, the girl volunteered to the detective that he could search her bag if he wanted to. The detective then told her that he was not interested in the plastic bag she had with her but that he was interested in the bulge at her waist.
The girl unzipped her coat and handed him a plastic bag she had at her waist. The plastic bag contained a powdery white substance which was later tested in the police crime laboratory and confirmed to be cocaine.
In Family Court, a hearing was scheduled to determine if the teen-aged girl was a juvenile delinquent: that is, if she committed an act which would have been a crime if she were an adult. If she were an adult, she would have been indicted for criminal cocaine possession.
The detective was called to testify and the family court found the detective’s testimony credible. The teen-aged girl filed a motion to suppress: she wanted the cocaine denied admission into evidence on the ground that the cocaine was obtained from her during an unreasonable search and seizure.
The Family Court denied the motion and ruled that the conversation which the detective had with the teenager was not an arrest. He used no coercion and the teenager was not searched: she gave up the cocaine voluntarily.
The teenager appealed. The only question before the Court is whether or not the cocaine should be suppressed.
The Court upheld the findings of the family court and held that the teen-aged girl did not in any way look like she was 18 and this made the police detective suspect that the teenager was a runaway. In speaking to her, the police detective wanted to make sure that the teen-ager was not in any trouble.
The Court ruled that the police detective’s conversation with the teenager was a minimal intrusion. The detective only wanted some information. The teenager could have been truant because she was unaccompanied at a bus station during school hours. There was a credible reason for the detective to approach her and the detective did not harass or intimidate her. The detective was well within his authority to approach and question a child in a bus station where truants and runaways usually stay.
The questions asked by the detective were meant to elicit information to determine if the teenager was a truant or a runaway. The questioning was not yet a custodial investigation. There was no search or seizure to speak of either because the detective asked the girl about the bulge at her waist; and he requested her to give it to him and it was the girl who voluntarily gave the detective the cocaine. f was no threat, intimidation or coercion used on the teenager.
The Court affirmed the finding of the Family court that the teenager was a juvenile delinquent.
The Court affirmed that the teenager committed acts which if committed by an adult would constitute the crime of criminal cocaine possession. The placement of the teenager with the New York State Division for Youth for a period of one year and a half is also affirmed.
If you are a teenager facing a hearing to determine if you committed acts which constitute the crime of criminal cocaine possession, heroin possession or marijuana possession, you will need to be represented by a New York City Drug Crime Lawyer. A NYC Drug Crime Lawyer can help present evidence on your behalf. A NY Drug Crime attorney can help raise a question on the legality of your detention. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, their New York Drug Crime Attorneys are willing and ready to help you. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates and speak to any of their NY Drug Crime attorneys at any of their offices in the New York area.