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PEOPLE STATE NEW YORK v. DONALD SCHANBARGER (04/10/69)

COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK


decided: April 10, 1969.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT,
v.
DONALD SCHANBARGER, APPELLANT

Appeal, by permission of an Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals, from a judgment of the Rensselaer County Court, entered October 2, 1968, affirming a judgment of the Court of Special Sessions of the Town of East Greenbush (Frank P. Gardinier, J. P.) convicting defendant of a violation of subdivision 6 of section 240.35 of the Penal Law.

Burke, J. Chief Judge Fuld and Judges Scileppi, Bergan, Keating, Breitel and Jasen concur.

Author: Burke

 State Trooper Kellogg was on routine patrol on Routes 9 and 20 in the Townships of Schodack and East Greenbush in the early morning hours of April 30, 1968. At about 3 o'clock in the morning he observed a man walking along the highway but he paid little attention to him, other than noting that the hour was late, and thought that it was someone returning home since it was a residential area. About a half-hour later, while still on the same highway, Trooper Kellogg observed the same man walking along the highway in the vicinity of the East Greenbush Shopping Center. His suspicions were aroused as to the man's intent and purpose since this particular area had been the subject of frequent burglaries. The trooper stopped his vehicle and asked the man to come over to the car and tell him where he was going, where he was coming from and his identity and where he resided. The man replied that he did not think he had to answer the questions. The trooper informed the man that his refusal to answer the questions could result in his being arrested for loitering but the man still refused to answer the questions. The trooper arrested the man and a search of his person revealed that his name was that of the defendant, Donald Schanberger.

Trooper Kellogg filed an information charging the defendant with violation of section 240.35 (subd. 6) of the Penal Law in that he "did remain & wander about in a public place without apparent reason under circumstances which justify suspicion & upon inquiry of a peace officer to wit: Tpr Kellogg refused to identify himself and failed to give a reasonable credible account of his conduct or purpose." Upon the trial of the charge, the trooper testified to the facts as recited above and defendant was convicted and fined $10.

On this pro se appeal, defendant challenges the constitutionality of the statute under which he was convicted. We find it unnecessary to deal with the constitutional argument. The subdivision of the statute under which he was convicted contains clauses which are conjunctive, rather than disjunctive, and, in order to sustain a conviction under it, each of the conjunctive elements must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The information under which he was tried substantially restated the terms of the section with the crucial exception of that part of the section which states that the loitering, remaining or wandering must be under circumstances which "justify suspicion that he may be engaged or about to engage in crime ". (Italics supplied.) The information in this case nowhere states that the circumstances were such that the trooper was justified in suspecting that the defendant might be engaged or was about to engage in crime. Furthermore, the trooper's testimony indicated nothing more than that he observed the defendant walking along a public highway in an area in which there had been "frequent burglaries". Such testimony is clearly insufficient to establish any basis for a reasonable suspicion that the defendant might be engaged or was about to engage in crime. In fact, it appears clear from the trial minutes that the defendant was convicted for his failure to answer the trooper's questions concerning his destination and identity. While it may be true that there was no reason why the defendant should not have answered the trooper's questions, it equally is true that his failure to answer

[24 N.Y.2d 288 Page 292]

    --> cannot constitute a criminal act and, particularly, a violation of subdivision 6 of section 240.35. Accordingly, the judgment should be reversed and the information dismissed.

Disposition

Judgment reversed, etc.

19690410

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