The Office of General Counsel issued the following informal opinion on October 7, 2003, representing the position of the New York State Insurance Department.
Re: Search, Arrest, and Law Enforcement Authority.
What is the extent of the Superintendents authority to conduct law enforcement activities, including searches and arrests?
The Superintendent of Insurance is authorized to establish an insurance frauds bureau and designate its employees as peace officers who are vested with the authority to conduct searches and make arrests.
The inquirer requested information regarding the extent of search, arrest, and law enforcement authority granted to the Superintendent of Insurance and for statistics regarding such enforcement activities.
Pursuant to N.Y. Ins. Law § 402 (McKinney 2003), the Superintendent of Insurance is authorized to establish an insurance frauds bureau and has the power to designate employees of the bureau as peace officers as defined in N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 2.10 (McKinney 2003).
N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 2.10 provides that employees of the insurance frauds bureau of the state department of insurance are peace officers when designated as peace officers by the Superintendent of Insurance and acting pursuant to their special duties. However, such peace officers are not authorized to carry, possess, repair, or dispose of a firearm unless the appropriate license therefor has been issued pursuant to N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00.
The powers of peace officers are enumerated in N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 2.20 (McKinney 2003) and grant employees so designated by the Superintendent the power to make warrantless arrests pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 140.25. Peace officers of the Insurance Department have the power to use physical force and deadly physical force in making an arrest or preventing an escape pursuant to N.Y. Penal Law § 35.30. They have the power to carry out warrantless searches whenever such searches are constitutionally permissible and are acting pursuant to their special duties. They have the power to possess and take custody of firearms not owned by the peace officer, for the purpose of disposing, guarding, or any other lawful purpose, consistent with his or her duties as a peace officer.
With regard to the inquirers request for available statistics regarding the Superintendents law enforcement activities, we enclosed pages 115 through 122 of the New York State Insurance Departments 2002 Annual Report which contain a variety of statistics and reports concerning the Insurance Frauds Bureau. The inquirer was also referred to the New York State Insurance Departments web site at www.ins.state.ny.us for a complete copy of the annual report, other additional information and to view the New York Insurance Law. The regulations are not available on our web site but are published by the New York Department of State and are available through Westlaw or Lexis.
For further information you may contact Special Counsel Athanasios Shinas at the Albany office.