New York Supreme Court Justice James Burke said on June 4 that the New York Police Department can hold detained protesters for more than 24 hours.
Burke refused a writ filed by the New York’s Legal Aid Society to release over 100 protesters arrested during the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd and under detention for more than 24 hours, according to the New York Law Journal.
New York courts earlier held that people should generally be arraigned within 24 hours. Burke said his decision comes because the city is facing a double crisis.
“There is a crisis within a crisis,” said Burke in a hearing conducted on Skype. By “crisis within a crisis” he meant that the pandemic and the protests are happening at the same time and the police and the prosecutors require more time to process the arrests.
“Therefore, I find it is necessary because we are in a crisis caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic which prevents live arraignments, which in turn requires virtual arraignment which causes delay,” said Burke, according to the radio, 1010 Wins.
A New York State Court of Appeals’ decision in 1991 said that detainees cannot be held without arraignment for more than 24 hours unless an “acceptable explanation” is provided for the delay. Burke quoted this appeals decision in Roundtree V. New York and said the NYPD has provided acceptable reasons for keeping the protesters detained.
New York’s Legal Aid Society filed a notice of appeal on behalf of New Yorkers against the NYPD’s detention of protesters for more than 24 hours which it said is against the city’s 24-hour arrest-to-arraignment requirement.
“The NYPD is not above the law, and detaining New Yorkers for more than 24 hours after an arrest and denying them speedy access to a judge violates our fundamental standards of justice,” said Tina Luong, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society, according to the Daily News.
Critics have said that keeping protesters detained longer could turn into a public health crisis.
“The police are unnecessarily arresting these individuals and putting them in jail. They are creating the crisis this court is talking about,” Amber Khan, director of the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest told the Daily News. He added that Burke’s decision would have “dire consequences.”
“The individuals who are detained may or may not contract COVID-19, and then they reenter the community, to their own families, to where they live, to whomever they’re around, and potentially spread it. We won’t even know that consequence for weeks down the road,” said Khan.