NYPD Lawyers: Cops Have Right to Ask for ID, Search Pedistrians at Will

I had a discovery hearing yesterday for my NYPD lawsuit (regarding last June, when I was stopped on the street and forcibly searched for being a white guy in a black neighborhood). At the hearing, the magistrate point-blank asked the city’s attorneys if the police had the right to ask for ID and search me, to which the city’s attorneys responded, “yes.”

How many times must this behavior be struck down by courts at every level? In New York, a cop cannot ask you for ID without an “articulable reason” (People v. De Bour, 40 NY2d 210). Under federal law, a cop cannot search you without warrant, probable cause, or suspicion that you are armed and dangerous (Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 [1968]); in the last instance, only the minimum search required to show that you are not armed is permissible.

New York City stops and searches something like half a million people annually. It is time that we put a stop to this nonsense, and the courts have given us the tools — we just have to use them.

6 thoughts on “NYPD Lawyers: Cops Have Right to Ask for ID, Search Pedistrians at Will

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  1. If the NYPD illegally detains that many people in a year it’s because they know the courts won’t take any legal action against them. So, the problem is with the courts, who know they can make revenue without lany egal restraint.

    1. Not all of those searches are illegal, but the quantity does suggest the tactic is overused. The target of most of the searches are people in underprivileged neighborhoods who don’t have great access to lawyers. (On those lines, I don’t consider myself to be underprivileged, and I still wouldn’t want to fork over what an attorney charges!)

      The path to success in court over these searches is not easy and will be long, but if even 1% of those filed suit (and in fairness, there are well over 1,000 suits filed against the NYPD annually), change would be forced.

  2. Unfortunately for your position in this matter, the law is on the state’s side here. http://law.onecle.com/new-york/criminal-procedure/CPL0140.50_140.50.html

    That statute allows the NYPD to demand ID so long as they have “reasonable suspicion” that you may in some manner be involved with a crime. Reasonable suspicion is a very low bar indeed, so it will almost always fly.

    However, the language is intentionally vague, so it is unclear if their right to “demand” ID is the same as a requirement for you to show ID. This issue is rather convoluted, and the Supreme Court has mixed feelings on the matter. In the absence of a test case, it’s fairly safe to assume that the courts would side with an officer interpreting the law to mean that you are required to produce your ID.

    These statutes vary from state to state, and some states don’t have any at all, but New York does.

    1. NY’s criminal procedure aside you are mistaken. While a search is lawful if the State agent has “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is being committed or about to be committed, you err when you claim that the “bar” is low. In Terry v Ohio and Duran v Douglas (primarily a 1st Amendment case) “reasonable suspicion” is very well defined as a suspicion of criminal activity that is both reasonable AND that the officer be able to articulate the underlying substance of his suspicion.

      The requirement for articulable suspicion is not trivial. For example, I got pulled over and cited after flipping a cop off … repeatedly … and in traffic court he told the judge his initial suspicion and surveillance (cop speak for riding my ass until he felt like pulling me over) was based on get flipped off. What a moron. I beat the case and sued his ass in federal court. They wrote me a check, LOL.

  3. can you please give a quotable source for were it says that the officer must be able to articulate is suspicion? I may be able to win a case if I can find tis citation. thank you

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