Recent Changes to New York State Laws: Police Misconduct and Criminal Defense
by King Law
When you are facing criminal charges and preparing a defense strategy in your case, it is important to consider the ways in which police misconduct in Rochester could have resulted in an unlawful arrest, or other constitutionally prohibited behavior that led to your arrest. Legislation is currently pending in New York State that would prohibit law enforcement officers in the state from using racial and ethnic profiling. This pending legislation arose out of significant pressure from New York residents across the state to reform policing practices, to prevent unlawful arrests linked to discrimination, and to prevent police brutality.
If you have recently been arrested for a criminal offense and believe it may have been a false arrest or that unlawful discrimination played a role in the arrest, we want you to know more about recent and pending changes to state law that could help certain people accused of crimes in Rochester and throughout the state.
Repeal of 50-a
After the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, New York residents throughout the state urged lawmakers to take action to prevent similar practices from occurring in New York. Legislators in the state developed a package of bills in response, and Governor Cuomo signed those bills into law within a short number of weeks, according to an article in The New York Times. The first of those bills in the legislative grouping known as the “Say Their Name” reform package was a piece of legislation that repealed a law known as 50-a.
According to the Governor’s press release, Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law provided police officers and other law enforcement officials with certain privacy protections when it came to their personnel records and their involvement in any disciplinary proceedings. The law also allowed those law enforcement officials to keep the outcomes of disciplinary proceedings private, making it difficult for anyone who experienced police brutality or police misconduct, including excessive force upon arrest or false arrest, to have evidence to make a claim against the officer.
With the repeal of 50-a, law enforcement disciplinary records can now be disclosed. According to the press release, the repeal is a first step in “increasing transparency and helping the public regain trust that law enforcement officers and agencies may be held accountable for misconduct.” If you are facing criminal charges and you believe you have faced false arrest or were the victim of excessive force during the arrest, you should speak with a Rochester criminal defense attorney about accessing the disciplinary records of the arresting officers.
All New York State Police Officers Must Wear Body Cameras
Through recently signed legislation, all New York State Police officers will now be required to wear body cameras while they are on patrol. Body cameras must begin recording “immediately before an officer exits a patrol vehicle to interact with a person or situation,” as well as during “all searches of persons and property,” during “all arrests and summonses,” during “all interactions with individuals suspected of criminal activity,” and in many other circumstances.
Why is this useful information for someone in Rochester who is facing criminal charges? If the arrest or any kind of police interaction occurred after the law was signed, New York State law requires a video record of the interaction with the police. Accordingly, if you believe your constitutional rights were violated during the arrest, or during a search, the video recording may be essential evidence in proving your defense and getting the charges dropped.
Unlawful Discrimination in Arrests
Previously we mentioned a new bill designed to prohibit law enforcement officers from using racial and ethnic profiling. If the law were to pass, it would also “require that a procedure be established for the taking and review of complaints against law enforcement officers for racial and ethnic profiling” and would allow a person who was the target of racial profiling to seek damages.
This proposed legislation, Senate Bill 8495 (S8495), is currently under consideration in the state Assembly. If it passes, it will go to Governor Cuomo’s desk to be signed into law. Why would this law be important to a person in Rochester who has been charged with a crime? In many cases, racial profiling leads to a stop or to a search. If the law passes and racial or ethnic profiling becomes unlawful in the state, such profiling could go toward a defense of an unlawful stop, search, or arrest.
Contact a Rochester Criminal Defense Attorney
Are you facing charges for a crime in New York? A Rochester criminal defense attorney can discuss possible defense strategies with you today. Contact King Law for more information. Call (585) 270-8882.