Are NYPD Marijuana Arrests Racially Biased?

Are loopholes in 37-year old laws leading to an increase of false arrests in NYC? If so, are NYPD officers using racial profiling to artificially boost possession charges among minorities? According to at least one public advocacy group they are. The NYPD's own arrest records show that a disproportionate number of people from minority groups are jailed for relatively minor (misdemeanor) marijuana possession when compared to Caucasians. This disparity is even more shocking when you consider that data also shows young white men and women use marijuana at far higher rates than blacks or Latinos.

Voices of Community Advocates & Leaders (VOCAL) is a statewide grassroots alliance created to provide a public voice for those low-income people affected by mass incarceration and other socially taboo issues. In a recent article, they called out the NYPD for racially biased arrests citing the fact that 85% of those arrested for marijuana possession are black or Latino.

The data, collected during an analysis of New York's controversial Stop and Frisk policy, points to a "shameful double standard within the NYPD," said Hakeem Jeffries, New York State Assembly Member. ". . it cannot be criminal behavior for one group of people and socially acceptable behavior for another group of people, when the dividing line is race."

In 1977, NYC passed legislation that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The law hinges on the concealment of the drug. If it's in a pocket or bag, the police can't arrest the individual. However, if it's in public view, they can. VOICE alleges that the vast majority of individuals incarcerated for possession in recent years have been falsely arrested. VOICE says that these individuals were either tricked by police into exposing their marijuana stash or illegally searched during NYPD Stop and Frisk incidents. Unfortunately, as multiple studies have shown, the majority of these Stop and Frisk incidents involve non-whites.

Jeffries has partnered with Buffalo State Senator Mark Grisanti to create legislation designed to equalize penalties for marijuana possession. This standardization is an effort to minimize the number of false arrests in New York City and to even out penalties across racial boundaries.

If you have been falsely arrested or you feel that the NYPD has violated your Civil Rights, contact an experienced New York City civil rights attorney to discuss your case. Call the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel for a free consultation at (800) 734-9338 or (212) 385-1122 to learn your rights.

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