In the Interest of D.S., No. 17 WAP 2011 (Pa. February 21, 2012)
Investigating an armed robbery that resulted in the loss of ten dollars, plainclothes police officers exited a gold car with tinted windows wielding their weapons as they approached D.S. They told him to put his hands in the air and get against the nearby gate. They patted him down and requested information including his name, address, and age. D.S. said his name was D.B. and swore. At no time did they identify themselves as law enforcement or inform D.S. that he was the subject of an investigation. An officer handcuffed D.S. then threw him onto the ground and kicked him.
D.S. was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and furnishing false information to law enforcement. The juvenile court in Allegheny County dismissed the disorderly conduct charge and ordered that D.S. enter a juvenile treatment facility.
D.S. appealed his adjudication of delinquency to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Finding that D.S. was informed about the officers’ identity and purpose from the “totality of the circumstances,” it affirmed. D.S. then appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Section 4914 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code addresses furnishing false identification to law enforcement authorities:
(a) Offense defined.–A person commits an offense if he furnishes law enforcement authorities with false information about his identity after being informed by a law enforcement officer who is in uniform or who has identified himself as a law enforcement officer that the person is the subject of an official investigation of a violation of law.
The Court found that the language of the statute was clear and free from ambiguity. It stated that nothing suggested that the legislature intended that a person’s knowledge could be derived from surrounding circumstances. Noting that the word “informed” could have a broader meaning in other contexts, the Court said the word was linked to the law enforcement officer, clearly indicating the legislature’s intent that the information must come directly from him.
Because the officers did not identify themselves or state that D.S. was the subject of a criminal investigation, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed, finding that the evidence was insufficient to support his adjudication of delinquency.