When Does Crime Prevention Itself Become a Crime?

In March 2013, a trial to start a class suit began against the New York Police Department questioning the constitutional protections on stop and frisk practices by police that have in force since 2002.

The lawsuit wants a judicial review that will systematically assess the NYPD's powers to stop and frisk and establish if indeed they have been suspicion-less and race-based and to look closely at the police authority and practices to ensure they align and comply with the constitution.

The suit alleges both the fourth amendment that guards against unreasonable searches and seizures and the 14th amendment, due process and equal protection clauses have been violated through statistics that show mainly black and Hispanic males are being targeted.The class suit will cite the growing number of stops versus the very low number of arrests as a result of those stops and turn the spotlight on the NYPD's overall practices.

The trial comes at the same time two other cases related to stop and frisk lawsuits are being heard. This latest class action, however, will put forward testimony in the hope the federal judge will establish that the legislation was made in error or mistake by a judicial oversight and seeks a process for community input and monitoring on police practices.

The witnesses of the trial testifying have said the police had very clear suspicion and were able to recall exact reasons the police had stopped and searched them. However, the lead plaintiff and other witnesses will also give their experiences on being repeatedly stopped by police.

The NYPD claims the procedures have saved thousands of lives and is an effective, constitutional means of fighting crime and that the rates in which minorities are stopped are consistent with the rates in which minorities are identified as crime suspects.

New York is the most densely populated major city in the United States and therefore rule of law is critical to ensuring the safety and security for individuals and families however at what cost.

The outcome of this case will be critical to both the Center for Constitutional rights and the NYPD. While one seeks a process for community input and monitoring on police practices to ensure constitutional rights are safeguarded the other party seeks to fight to keep effective, constitutional means of fighting crime and prevention while maintaining a high police visibility.

The trial is due to finish in late May and pending the outcome will be one of the most significant tests of police policy over constitutional rights and liberties.

Questions? Contact a New York City criminal defense attorney at Musa-Obregon & Associates.

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