Although the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures, police officers and law enforcement officials may briefly stop and question a person if they possess reasonable suspicion that the person has engaged in criminal activity or is about to do so.
If a police officer believes that the person who has been stopped is armed and dangerous, the officer may conduct a pat-down of the person to search for a weapon without first obtaining a warrant. Such a stop should be quick and non-invasive. This is known as the “stop-and-frisk” policy, and in New Jersey, the Newark Police Department is under investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union because of it.
Essex County DWI defense lawyers report the Newark Police Department stopped a disproportionate amount of African-American suspects last year. According to data from the police department, close to 75 percent of all stops were black suspects and fewer than one in five people stopped pursuant to the stop-and-frisk policy were arrested or charged with criminal activity. As African-Americans make up only slightly more than 50 percent of Newark’s population, the data suggests that African-Americans have been disproportionately targeted for stop-and-frisks.
In 2010, the ACLU issued a charge against the Newark police department, claiming that they violated civilians’ rights in a variety of ways due to their flawed internal program. Now, the data from 2014 seems to indicate that little progress has been made and the accusations are heating up. For the past year, the department has been the subject of a United States Justice Department investigation, which began after the ACLU made their accusations.
Violation of Rights
Some stop-and-frisks begin with motor vehicle stops, DWI defense lawyers say. While some behavior—like visibly texting while driving or swerving in and out of lanes—is obviously unsafe, police may choose to initiate a traffic stop for a dangling air freshener, a thick license plate frame or some other minor equipment issue. When police officers choose to stop a motorist on the basis of an alleged minor equipment infraction, suspicions may be heightened that race was a motivating factor for the stop.
When a police officer uses racial profiling to select a suspect to stop-and-frisk, the suspect’s constitutional rights are violated. It is difficult to determine whether racial profiling has been employed in any particular case, but this can be a critical issue in determining whether the State will be able to rely upon evidence obtained after a motor vehicle stop.
Although the stop-and-frisk policy can sometimes allow police officers to detain suspects without a warrant, there must be a legitimate reason for the stop, DWI defense lawyers in Essex County say. Without a reasonable basis to suspect criminal activity or misbehavior, evidence that was collected following a stop-and-frisk could be contested by the accused in court. Additionally, if a stop-and-frisk detainment results in no criminal charges and nothing suspicious is found, the stopped suspect could have a case for violation of rights.
If you feel that you have been unjustly targeted for a stop-and-frisk, you have options to defend yourself and protect your rights. To discuss your case, contact The Gorman Law Firm for a free, no-strings consultation today serving Morristown and Essex County.
Published in Categories: Criminal Defense