The controversial stop-and-frisk police tactics in New York City continue to be legally challenged and are being intensely scrutinized by the courts. Recent court rulings indicate judges are becoming increasingly critical of the practice, and speculation is rampant whether the tactic is denying New Yorkers of their constitutional rights in order to reduce crime.
In addition to a Manhattan federal court granting class action status of a case involving stop-and-frisk, (where the federal judge declared the tactic as; “deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights”), a New York appeals court has overturned two weapons convictions resulting from a stop-and-frisk police search.
In both cases, the defendants were teenagers caught carrying guns. Judicial scrutiny focused on whether the stop-and-frisk tactic adhered to the teenagers’ right of protection against unreasonable search and seizures, granted by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. In the first case, the court stated that; “a gradual erosion of this basic liberty can only tatter the constitutional fabric upon which this nation was built.”
The stop-and-frisk police tactic is increasingly suspect of eroding this fundamental liberty, coupled with a suspicious racial profiling element; more than 80% of those stopped in New York were black or Latino.
The recent court rulings are significant since the courts have a tendency to regularly approve stop-and-frisk searches. This profound shift by the courts has put the City on notice; stop-and-frisk tactics are now more closely scrutinized, and the courts may overturn convictions if it concludes that Fourth Amendment rights were not protected.
The City has routinely advocated that the stop-and-frisk program is concentrated in high-crime areas, and does not target minorities. Mayor Bloomberg has stated that; “it saves lives” and the City has vehemently fought critics of the tactic in court. However, some legal experts have stated that the recent court rulings are; “an inescapable conclusion that City will eventually have to redefine its stop-and- frisk policy…whether voluntarily or forced, and will fundamentally alter how the police interact with young minority men on the streets of New York.
These recent court rulings indicate that the federal and state courts are now scrutinizing convictions more closely if they resulted from NYPD stop-and-frisk tactics, and are willing to overturn a conviction if an infringement on a constitutional right is evident. If you were subject to a stop-and-frisk search and questioning, an experienced civil rights attorney can help you determine whether your fundamental constitutional rights were violated and explain all your legal options in pursuing a civil rights claim.