Street Encounters With Police


No area of search and seizure has caused more confusion than that of street encounters with the police where the officer acts on less than probable cause. Courts assess these encounters pursuant to People v DeBour and its four levels of police interaction.

DeBour identified four levels of police intrusion and the degree of knowledge needed to justify each level:

Level 1 -
the right to approach a citizen to request information based on some objective credible reason, not necessarily indicative of criminality.

Level 2 -
a common law right to inquire based upon a founded suspicion of some minimal criminal activity.

Level 3 -
the right to stop a citizen based upon reasonable suspicion; sometimes this may include the right to frisk, if based on a reasonable suspicion that the citizen is armed.

Level 4 -
the right to arrest based on probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime.

Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins ⟶