A federal judge in New York City has ruled that a law requiring police to explain their use-of-force decisions in court violates the constitutional rights of individuals who refuse to cooperate with the court process.
“You are no longer an ‘enemy combatant’ and no longer ‘an officer’,” U.S. District Judge William Alsup said in his opinion published on Thursday.
“In fact, you are not a ‘criminal’ under the Constitution.
You are not suspected of a crime.
You do not have to answer to anyone.”
He did not make a ruling on whether the law would be upheld.
“The defendants are now free to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Alsup wrote.
“That freedom is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment.”
A similar ruling last month overturned a lower court ruling that allowed police to force suspects to consent to searches, though the court did not allow for an exact count of the number of times that happened.
Alsup’s ruling is the latest in a series of decisions that have overturned controversial police use-force laws in New England and other cities.
He has also overturned a federal judge’s ruling that struck down the controversial Stop and Frisk program, which allowed police departments to question residents about their criminal history.
A federal appeals court in Massachusetts overturned the state’s use-a-knock law in 2014, saying it violated the Constitution by targeting poor minorities and the elderly.
Alsuby’s decision to overturn the New York law follows a similar ruling in Texas earlier this year.
The New York case was filed in 2015 by the National Lawyers Guild, which represents more than 200 plaintiffs, including some with disabilities, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
A separate lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the Legal Aid Society, and other civil rights groups, is challenging a similar law in New Jersey.
Alsop’s ruling could make it harder for police departments in other states to keep their use of force policies secret.
“This is a case about an important question of constitutional law,” said ACLU deputy legal director Adam Liptak.
“It’s important that we get these use-fear laws overturned.”
The ruling comes as the Obama administration is weighing a broad overhaul of the federal use-and-retreat laws that the Justice Department says are widely abused and have made it harder to prosecute police officers for serious misconduct.
Alsacas ruling is likely to be appealed to the U.N. Supreme Court.