NYPD's Unlawful Warrant Searches

Belle et al vThe City of New York, Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-02673 (Southern District of New York)

This class action lawsuit alleges that the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) engages in an unconstitutional practice of detaining people for the purpose of conducting warrant searches when no reasonable suspicion exists to detain such people. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees for the violation of the civil rights of Plaintiffs and others similarly situated.

The lawsuit alleges that NYPD adopted a policy and custom of conducting warrant searches of detained persons even when there was no reasonable suspicion justifying their detention; that the practice of conducting unconstitutional warrant searches was persistent and widespread; and that NYPD officials failed to properly train or supervise police officers regarding the impropriety of such warrant searches.

The complaint specifically alleges that, at separate times and in different locations, Plaintiffs Terron Belle and William Rios were merely walking in New York City and not engaging in any wrongdoing or suspicious activity. The complaint alleges that both individuals were suddenly detained by NYPD police officers, who thoroughly frisked their bodies and emptied their pockets. The complaint alleges that the police officers found nothing unlawful, dangerous or suspicious in either Plaintiff’s possession, and neither Plaintiff said or did anything incriminating. Nonetheless, rather than release the Plaintiffs, the complaint alleges that NYPD police officer continued to detain them for purposes of conducting an electronic warrant search. Both searches lasted approximately five minutes, and no outstanding warrant were found. The Plaintiffs were subsequently released.

The complaint alleges that these actions taken by NYPD police officers deprived Plaintiffs, and thousands of other individuals similarly treated, of the rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and of their constitutional rights secured by 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Indeed, in another lawsuit filed on behalf of an individual—Ramirez v. City of New York, et al., 16 cv 4174 (ER)—the Southern District of New York held that the detention of the individual for approximately five minutes to conduct a warrant search, when no reasonable suspicion existed to justify that detention, constituted a constitutional violation.

The lawsuit further alleges that NYPD officers were motivated to conduct unconstitutional warrant searches in part because of the pressure they faced to meet arrest quotas. The lawsuit alleges that NYPD officers who failed to meet those arrest quotas were demoted, assigned to undesirable shifts or otherwise penalized.

A copy of the complaint can be found HERE.

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