June 01, 2014

Status Offender Did Not Resist ‘Arrest’ When Refusing to Leave With Probation Officer

Scott Trowbridge

In re Gabriela A., 2014 WL 1356605 (N.Y. App. Div.).

Youth, who had previously been adjudicated a Person in Need of Supervision (PINS) and struggled with probation officers who were trying to remove her from her home, could not be adjudicated as a delinquent for resisting arrest or obstructing government administration. Without more, this would be an improper way to convert a PINS case to a delinquency matter.

A youth was adjudicated a Person in Need of Supervision (PINS) for status offenses and placed on probation. On one occasion thereafter, her probation officer and a colleague went to her home and she refused to leave with them, shouted obscenities, refused to stop texting friends, and resisted their attempts to handcuff her. The officers filed a petition alleging those acts constituted delinquent acts, including resisting arrest, obstructing government administration, assault, and menacing. 

At the adjudication hearing, the youth’s attorney moved to dismiss the charges, arguing there was insufficient evidence that the officers feared for their safety or that she intended to injure anyone for assault and that resisting arrest was improperly ‘bootstrapped’ to the PINS case. The youth admitted she had tried to make it difficult for the officers to handcuff her, but that she was not trying to hurt them. 

The Family Court found her delinquent on the resisting arrest and obstruction counts and dismissed the assault and menacing allegations. At the disposition hearing, she was ordered to be transferred quickly out of the current secure placement to a nonsecure detention facility for one year.

The Appellate Division reversed the Family Court holding that the youth’s actions were consistent with the PINS statute rather than delinquency. Therefore, the family court could not place her in a secure facility via the indirect method of resisting ‘arrest’ for a status offense. The county appealed. The New York Court of Appeals reversed, holding the youth was improperly adjudicated delinquent.

The Court of Appeals first noted the statutory definitions of delinquents and PINS. A delinquent is a person under age 18 who commits what would constitute a crime if committed by an adult. A PINS, in contrast, is someone under 18 who is incorrigible, ungovernable, or habitually disobedient of their parents or other lawful authority. State statute prohibits confinement of a PINS to a secure facility. 

When the officers were attempting to take the youth with them, they were acting under the statutory authority to return a PINS to a nonsecure facility. For this to have been an ‘arrest’ she would have been subject to a lawful arrest under a Penal Code section. 

Regarding the count for obstructing government administration, the youth’s actions could conceivably be deemed an attempt to ‘prevent a public servant from performing an official function’ since the definition of a PINS includes this type of incorrigible behavior. However, it would be illogical to assume the legislature intended for this to be an indirect way to securely place a PINS.