A federal judge in New York City recently ruled that the application of the police department’s “stop and frisk” policy violated the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution. The ruling came as a result of a discrimination case brought against the city based on complaints of African Americans and Hispanic Americans who were essentially profiled by police because of their races.
According to the 195-page ruling, the court found that these minority groups accounted for 80 percent of the 4.4 million stops conducted by the police, even though they account for just over half (54 percent) of the city’s population.
Police claim that the policy has been a benefit to minority communities because the violent crime rate has been reduced since it has been in place. However, only 10 percent of the stops result in an arrest, and weapons are rarely found. The police commissioner believes that communities will be hurt by the ruling.
Regardless of the feelings behind the ruling, the message from the court was clear. Investigatory stops may not be conducted without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, or is about to be committed.
While the ruling applies to the NYPD, it also has relevance in Arizona. If a person is arrested on suspicion of criminal charges, one of the defenses an attorney can raise is based on whether the initial search (or stop) was proper as a matter of law. If the search was not constitutionally justified, the evidence found as a result would not be admissible in court, thus leading to a dismissal of the charges.
If you have questions about investigatory stops, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help.
Source: ABC News.com, NYPD Head: stop-frisk ruling will hurt minorities, August 18, 2013