Newark, NJ- On July 20th, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Newark Police Department reached an agreement to appoint a federal monitor to oversee the municipal police force after a three-year long investigation revealed “patterns and practices of unconstitutional conduct” in numerous arrests carried out by officers on the force.
The Department of Justice’s civil rights division initiated their investigation after receiving complaints from the New Jersey Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. According to the New Jersey Star Ledger, a federal monitor will be appointed in September to assure NPD officers respect the civil rights of Newark residents and visitors to the city.
There were a number of troubling findings in the report, many of which centered on an arrestee’s constitutional rights.
According to the DOJ report, 75 percent of pedestrian arrests in Newark violated the arrestee’s Fourth Amendment Rights, which protects all people from unreasonable searches and seizures and requires law enforcement have probable cause to stop any person, pedestrian or motorist. It means police cannot detain anyone merely based on suspicion or a hunch a person committed a crime and it’s an important protection, especially in the context of criminal charges.
Detainees, who questioned an officers’ action or appeared to be disrespectful, were wrongfully detained or otherwise retaliated against. Arrestees, who were viewed as insubordinate, faced charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstruction of justice.
The DOJ also found that in 20 percent of arrests, NPD police officers used unreasonable force, an additional and serious Constitutional violation. Officers on the force also disproportionality targeted African-Americans in their pedestrian stops.
The DOJ report noted Newark is a “challenging city to police” due to budget constraints and a high level of crime. The agency also recognized not all members of the NPD are responsible for the civil rights violations, and pointed out that administrative deficiencies played an integral role in those violations.
Being a police officer can be dangerous, and it is often a thankless job, but they are expected to honor the civil rights of everyone they’ve been sworn to protect. Violating an individual’s Fourth Amendment or other constitutional rights is inexcusable, and means that, in all likelihood, some arrestees were unjustly or wrongfully charged with criminal offenses.
In light of the investigation’s findings, it would appear that some of the individuals arrested may have been unlawfully charged and convicted of a crime. If you believe you have been charged of a crime as a result of constitutional violations, you can contact my Newark office to discuss your charges and how we should approach your defense with your best interests in mind.
When an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights are violated, it is possible for me, as a New Jersey criminal defense attorney, to have evidence obtained in an unconstitutional search or seizure excluded from the court’s record. This is called the “exclusionary rule,” established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1961. Additionally, the “fruit of the poison tree” doctrine forbids any evidence of criminal activity obtained through an unconstitutional search from being used to discover additional evidence.
Challenging probable cause and any evidence obtained during an unreasonable search is an important part of any criminal defense. As your attorney, I look at the entire body or evidence the state plans to present against you, and will build an effective defense strategy on your behalf. My goal is to assure your rights are protected throughout the legal process, and do everything in power to prevent conviction.