Articles Tagged with Stop and Frisk

tim-graf-202490-copy-300x200Few laws have created the angst that is experienced in the stop-and-search era. The basic premise is that if you come from an ethnic minority, then the chances are that you will be more likely to be stripped and searched than a member of the mainstream community, which is primarily white Caucasian in this context. It is a violation of civil liberties. There are numerous reports of these powers being abused.

The law enforcement agencies may hide behind the notion that they are merely engaging in a consensual process, but consensus can never be achieved if one of the parties to the cause is so much more powerful and influential. The power of arrest and charge is particularly compelling to any would-be suspect when he or she is deciding whether or not to resist the arrest. The law enforcement agencies have attempted to report this as a practical matter of people from ethnic minorities committing more crimes more often than their mainstream white Caucasian counterparts. Other social researchers disagree with this premise because it does not account for the impact of the systemic deprivations with which these ethnic minorities have to contend.

Working Towards a Sustainable Model

It’s a hot Chicago night, and you and some friends are outside, laughing and joking in an attempt to beat the summer heat. Two police officers approach and ask what’s going on. Not wanting trouble, you and your buddies turn and walk away. The officer repeats his question, a bit louder now, and the officers quickens their pace. Scared, you and your friends begin to run. The cops quickly follow, and when you’re detained they frisk everybody and find marijuana in your back pocket. Suddenly, what started as a fun night with friends ends with you in the back of a police cruiser, charged with possession of marijuana. chicago-police-176193-m

Unfortunately these types of stop and frisks are all too common, especially in Chicago’s high crime areas. If you’re arrested following a stop and frisk, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to closely examine your case to determine whether the police’s actions were lawful.

Police Right to Stop and Frisk in Chicago

Police officers have the right to stop and question any person they encounter, provided they have a reasonable suspicion that the individual was engaged in criminal activity. This means the officer must be able to clearly explain why he believed criminal activity was happening; he cannot simply make a stop based on a hunch or intuition. These are known as Terry stops, after the United States Supreme Court case that authorized these investigatory stops.

The officer may perform a frisk (or protective pat down) only if he has reasonable grounds to believe the individual is armed. Even then, the pat down can only be of those areas on the body where a weapon could be hidden.

Just hanging out on the street corner is not generally enough to authorize the police to stop and question you. But in 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Illinois v. Wardlow that the police can consider the individual’s behavior in context of the location when deciding whether there is reasonable suspicion to make a Terry stop. Suddenly, hanging out on the street in a known drug area became suspicious – bad news for the many law-abiding Chicago residents living in such areas.

Defending Against Chicago Stop and Frisk Arrest

There are many considerations that come in to play if you are arrested following a stop and frisk. Were you doing anything that could give rise to a reasonable suspicion that you were engaged in criminal activity? Were you in an area known for high criminal activity? Were you acting in a manner that made it appear you were engaged in criminal activity – pacing back and forth, looking at your watch repeatedly, or staying in the same location for a lengthy period of time?

Your behavior on the night of the arrest, as well as the location where it occurred, must be examined closely to determine if either of them could have given the police reasonable suspicion that you were committing – or about to commit – a crime. If the police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop you, the criminal case can be dismissed.

If the stop did rise to the level of reasonable suspicion (and even if it did not), the resulting frisk must also be closely examined to determine whether it exceeded the police’s authority. The police may only frisk on top of clothing, and they cannot pull out or manipulate anything they feel during the pat down unless it is reasonably clear from feel that it was a weapon or drugs. It would be hard for police to determine through a pat down that the small lump they felt in your pants pocket was marijuana. If we can show that the police’s discovery of evidence during a pat down exceeded their authority, the criminal case can be dismissed. Continue reading

Have you ever been stopped by the Chicago Police for no apparent reason and are now facing Chicago drug charges?  You can most likely relate to the following recent story out of New York City.

Following a $14,000 March, 2013 settlement to a Brooklyn man who claimed he was illegally stopped and frisked pursuant to the controversial “stop, question and frisk” policy in effect by New York City—a federal judge ruled on August 12th that the policy was both unconstitutional as well as racially discriminatory. As noted in the decision handed down by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, (Floyd v. City of New York), the complaints that have been received by several Chicago drug defendants regarding the policy have merit as well.  Specifically, a year before the lawsuit and Judge Scheindlin’s decision, the New York City Council introduced legislation known as the Community Safety Act. This legislation first established an independent inspector general to review current police policy and practice regarding the stop and frisk issue. Secondly, the Act enforced a current anti-profiling law and expanded the categories of those protected from such profiling. chicago-police-176193-m  This has everything to do with violations of the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution regarding search and seizure.

New York City Council and Mayor Bloomberg Carry on the Battle

Following the above-mentioned lawsuit, the City Council voted on the Community Safety Act in June. While the Act passed through the Council nearly unanimously, Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the legislation in July, stating “This is a fight to defend your life and your kids’ lives…” Bloomberg has been vocal in stating that any extra departmental oversight prevents officers from effectively doing their jobs and places New York citizens in harm’s way. Many citizens of New York would disagree with the Mayor’s assessment. Keeshan Harley, an 18-year old young black man from Brooklyn has been stopped by the NYPD almost 150 times “without proper cause or fair reasoning,” under the NYPD stop and frisk policy.

Stop and Frisk Comes to a Halt

Apparently, many New Yorkers side with the City Council as on August 22nd, the era of unchecked stop-and-frisks by the NYPD ended when Bloomberg’s veto was overridden. Bloomberg vows to keep fighting the issue, claiming the Act a “dangerous piece of legislation.” Bloomberg’s opinion may have merit as well—those bent on committing crimes in New York City seem to have gotten the “memo” loud and clear following the Council’s decision. One police source claimed he would start carrying his gun again and that once the number of stops decreased the number of crimes would skyrocket. With police officers under threat of a lawsuit any time a suspect could potentially claim profiling, it is believed that good officers will simply “look the other way,” rather than risk their jobs and their pensions.

How the New York Stop and Frisk Could Affect Chicago

A Bronx police officer commented “Welcome to Chicago,” following the NY Council’s veto, insinuating that the crime rate of New York City would soon reach that of Chicago once police officers stopped taking advantage of “stop, question and frisk.” A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department responded to the barb, saying “We don’t engage in racial profiling.” Adam Collins went on to say that there was significantly less crime, fewer shootings and fewer murders in 2012 than any other year since 1965—and without imposing on citizen’s rights. Chicago does have a version of stop and frisk known as “contact cards.”

This allows police to stop an individual, ask for name, phone number and the disclosure of any tattoos however the officer may not make physical contact without probable cause. Nevertheless, Chicago police are not completely exempt from racial profiling. Four interns for Rainbow Push have accused Chicago police of racial profiling as the four young black men, ranging from 19-21, were stopped and handcuffed as they were walking toward a bus stop. One of the young men attends Chicago State University and is seeking a degree in criminal justice. The young men suspect the police were looking for guns—although no weapons were found during a pat-down. Police officials defend the actions of the officers stating the area is well-known for gang violence and that one of the young men refused to remove his hands from his pockets when asked.  Continue reading