How Queens Drug Lawyers Challenge Unconstitutional Stop and Frisks

How Queens Drug Lawyers Challenge Unconstitutional Stop and Frisks

What is Stop and Frisk?

Stop and frisk refers to a police tactic where officers temporarily detain, question, and sometimes search civilians on the street if they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity[1]. In New York City, stop and frisk was widely employed under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg as a crime reduction strategy. At its peak in 2011, the NYPD conducted over 685,000 stops[2].

However, analysis of stop and frisk data revealed some troubling findings:

  • Over 80% of stops resulted in no arrest or summons[1]
  • Black and Latino New Yorkers accounted for over 80% of stops, despite making up less than half of the city’s population[3]
  • Weapons were found in less than 2% of stops[1]

These statistics raised concerns that stop and frisk was being used excessively and disproportionately targeting people of color, even when there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Legal Challenges to Stop and Frisk

Several legal challenges have been mounted over the years taking issue with both the frequency of inappropriate stops as well as the racial disparities.

In Floyd v. City of New York, attorneys argued that the NYPD’s practices violated the 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure and the 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law[4].

In her 2013 ruling, Judge Shira Scheindlin found the NYPD liable for a “policy and practice of unconstitutional stops” and ordered reforms to stop and frisk[1]. Reforms included better officer training and supervision as well as a joint process to solicit input on solutions from both NYPD and community stakeholders.

How Queens Drug Lawyers Fight Back

Many of the unconstitutional stops in Queens have involved minor drug possession charges. As public defenders and criminal defense attorneys in the borough, Queens drug lawyers play a critical role in fighting back against inappropriate stop and frisks.

Here are some of the ways they challenge questionable stops:

File Motions to Suppress Evidence

If evidence against their client was obtained illegally through an unconstitutional stop, lawyers can file a motion to suppress evidence arguing that it should be excluded from the case. This can sometimes lead to charges being dismissed entirely[5].

Put Pressure on Individual Officers

During cross examination, lawyers may grill police officers about inconsistencies in their accounts of the stop and search while also highlighting a lack of reasonable suspicion. This puts pressure on individual officers to better justify stops[6].

Collect Data on Bad Stops

Many public defenders maintain databases tracking unconstitutional stops and searches by specific officers and precincts. This data supports litigation efforts and helps pressure the NYPD to discipline repeat offenders[7].

Support Reform Efforts

Queens drug lawyers endorse reform efforts like Right to Know Act legislation which requires officers to identify themselves and provide a reason for stops[8]. They may also participate in lawsuits like Floyd v. City of New York.

Refer Clients to File CCRB Complaints

Lawyers refer clients to file complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) so that instances of inappropriate stop and frisks are officially investigated[9].

The Impact of Legal Challenges

Thanks to grassroots activism and legal challenges, stop and frisk numbers have dropped dramatically in New York. In 2017, there were under 12,000 stops – a 96% reduction from the 2011 peak[10].

However, racial disparities still persist in stops, and police accountability remains an ongoing issue[11]. Queens drug lawyers continue working to protect the rights of their clients and all New Yorkers against unconstitutional police practices.

References

  1. Judge Rejects New York’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy (New York Times)
  2. Stop and Frisk Term Analysis (Litcharts)
  3. Daniels, et al. v. the City of New York (CCR Justice)
  4. Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. (CCR Justice)
  5. How to File a Motion to Suppress Evidence (Avvo)
  6. Cross Examination of Police Officers (Quora)
  7. Public Defenders Collect Data on Bad Stops (Reddit)
  8. Right to Know Act Legislation (New York City Council)
  9. File Complaint with CCRB (NYC CCRB)
  10. Stop and Frisk Numbers Drop (New York Times)
  11. Racial Disparities Persist in Stops (New York Times)