Did you see this yet? I don’t like to take credit for videos we didn’t make, but watching these brave citizens effectively “flex” their rights makes me feel like a proud parent. (Sniffle.) Aside from exposing the legal farce of these internal DHS “security” checkpoints, the phrase “Am I free to go” has taken on […]
If you haven’t seen it yet, you must watch the season premiere of The Good Wife. The central plot line is based on the Breakfast in Collinsville viral video produced by our friend Terrance Huff. Like the real life incident, the show depicts an illegal search based on a bogus drug dog alert. (It also […]
I admit it: You might not like our new website. (In fact, you might hate it.) That’s okay. I understand that it might look a bit odd at first. But for all the reasons why you might hate it, here are three reasons why you’ll eventually love it. #1: WTF?! The huge sliding image thing […]
My fiancée was out of town last Saturday, so I hung out at a bar with Scott Morgan. We reminisced about our amazing 10-year partnership. (In fact, Scott will be the best man at my wedding next spring!) When we met, I was a 25-year-old trying my darndest to look like an earnest khaki-clad non-profit […]
It was 10 years ago today that Flex Your Rights was born. On July 12, 2002, Steve Silverman filed articles of incorporation in Washington, DC, making the organization official. I’m not sure what I expected when I showed up to volunteer a year later, but what I found was just Steve. He was broke and […]
In Illinois v. Caballes, the Supreme Court ruled that police do not need reasonable suspicion to use drug dogs to sniff a vehicle during a legitimate traffic stop. This decision stems from the case of Roy Caballes, who was pulled over for speeding and subsequently arrested for marijuana trafficking after a drug dog was brought […]
One of the most common questions we get at Flex Your Rights is how to handle a situation in which police smell weed (or claim to smell weed). This can happen whether or not you actually have marijuana and police actually smell it, so it’s a situation everyone should be prepared for. My latest YouTube […]
This article by Steve Silverman originally appeared April 5, 2012 in Reason.com. It’s been updated to include new information regarding recent rulings in favor of citizens’ right to record. Last week the City of Boston agreed to pay Simon Glik $170,000 in damages and legal fees to settle a civil rights lawsuit stemming from his 2007 […]
The latest data on stop and frisks in New York City is nothing short of horrifying. Kristen Gwynne at AlterNet reports.
For the NYPD’s stats to add up, they’d have to have stopped every young, black man living in the city once–and then some. Both marijuana arrests and street stops are soaring under Bloomberg’s administration, but the data shows that rise in aggressive policing is only apparent in certain communities. Demonstrators stressed that pot arrests and stop-and-frisk have come to epitomize a city-wide problem requiring urgent redress.
In 2011 alone, more than 50,000 New Yorkers — 87 percent of whom are black or Latino — were arrested for petty marijuana possession. Though often considered a trivial arrest, a pot conviction can have serious consequences.
No kidding. But Mayor Bloomberg defends the policy, and its horrible consequences, by claiming it’s all about getting guns off the street:
The number of guns that we’ve been finding has continued to go down, which says the program at this scale is doing a great job….The whole idea here, John, is not to catch people with guns; it’s to prevent people from carrying guns. It’s like a stop we have for driving while intoxicated. It would be great if everybody said, "Oh my goodness, I might get stopped so I’m not gonna drink and drive." That’s great. That’s what we want. That would be wonderful. And the fact that we’re getting fewer guns says the program is working. And the program will really have succeeded when we don’t get any guns.
Yet, as Jacob Sullum points out, searching people without evidence for the sole purpose of deterring crime is completely and utterly unconstitutional. Think about the actual words Bloomberg uses here: "The whole idea here…is not to catch people with guns; it’s to prevent people from carrying guns." If you’re not actually even trying to catch people with guns, what on earth is the legal justification for stopping these guys in the first place? It’s illegal to stop someone on suspicion of carrying a firearm unless you have a reason to believe that they’re carrying a firearm, and just to clear up any confusion, being black doesn’t count as evidence that somebody’s got a gun.
Moreover, if this is really all about protecting the public from gun violence, I’d like to know why it’s necessary to arrest people who were unarmed but happened to have a little bit of marijuana in their pocket when police stopped them to look for guns. Concealed possession of small amounts of marijuana isn’t supposed to be a crime in New York anyway, but particularly in the context of a public safety policy solely aimed at taking weapons off the streets, why are marijuana users being arrested at all? It looks horrible in the press and badly exacerbates the appearance (heck, let’s just call it the reality) of racial bias underlying this whole hideous process.
The bottom line is that if this program isn’t all about stopping, searching, and arresting young black men for marijuana on a massive scale, then the procedures should be changed to produce some outcome other than a bunch of blatantly racist drug arrests. If anyone in NYPD needs advice on how not to racially profile people and arrest them for petty offenses, I have a few ideas, most of which revolve around the following theme: stop doing it.
Flex Your Rights has been working for many years now to educate everyone we can about the importance of refusing police searches and otherwise knowing and asserting your constitutional rights when confronted by police. Unfortunately, even if you handle a police encounter perfectly, things can still get pretty ugly. This video discusses how to handle some of the challenges you can run into after asserting your rights: