Senate passes Queens lawmaker’s bill to limit arbitrary detention

State Senator Michael Gianaris' legislation that would limit arbitrary detentions and protect the rights of New Yorkers clears the Senate. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

The New York state Senate passed legislation this week to protect the rights of New Yorkers detained by law enforcement, after hundreds were held for more than 24 hours without seeing a judge by the NYPD during summer protests over the police killing of George Floyd. 

A State Supreme Court ruling in June allowed the detentions while The Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit arguing that those arrested were held in breach of state law, based on the 1991 Roundtree v. Brown decision that established the 24-hour standard from arrest to arraignment, and their constitutional rights.

The New York state Senate passed the legislation Wednesday which limits arbitrary detention and protects the rights of New Yorkers detained by law enforcement. The bill that would ensure New Yorkers are never “disappeared into detention” was introduced by state Senator Michael Gianaris in July.

“One of the most egregious violations of civil liberties is the suspension of habeas corpus, one of the most fundamental rights in the United States which requires specific grounds for detention,” Gianaris said. “Preserving that right against police overreach is crucial to the rule of law and this legislation is critical to ensuring it is protected.”

Gianaris’ measure would correct the “injustice” and require specific grounds to be presented for one’s detention within 24 hours of arrest. The Legal Aid Society worked in tandem with Gianaris to draft the legislation, strengthening protections around habeas corpus.

“This past June, hundreds of New Yorkers arrested at the George Floyd demonstrations were detained by the NYPD for well over 24 hours, deprived of their right to be swiftly brought before a judge. As a result,people merely accused of committing a crime were forced into cramped cells, at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Russell Novak, Staff Attorney with the Special Litigation Unit at the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “This legislation will codify the protections secured in the landmark Roundtree case, which set a 24-hour rule for pre-arraignment detention. The Legal Aid Society thanks Senator Michael Gianaris for sponsoring this important legislation to protect against abuses that disproportionately impact Black and Brown people.”

A companion bill will be carried by Brooklyn Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, who was pepper-sprayed by police officers during one of the George Floyd protests.

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