Judge Rules NYPD Bag Searches Are Constitutional

Friday, December 02, 2005

The New York Civil Liberties Union has lost its argument that the NYPD's search and seizure policy is illegal, and a violation of passengers' right to privacy. Friday afternoon, a federal judge ruled that random police searches of the bags of subway riders are constitutional.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said in a 41-page ruling that the government's interest in preventing a terrorist bombing of the subway system is vitally important.

"The risk of a terrorist bombing of New York City's subway system is real and substantial," Berman said. The Manhattan ruling came hours after Berman heard closing arguments in a lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of several subway riders.

The news came just hours after both sides made their closing statements in federal court.

Donna Lieberman, NY Civil Liberties Union: "They should not be wasting their time and infringing on our privacy to go after needles in the haystack based on absolutely no suspicion whatsoever."

Closing arguments in the case that challenges the legality of random bag searches for subway riders. U.S. District Judge, Richard Berman gave each side just 20 minutes this morning to summarize the cases before he retired to reach a decision.

Meanwhile protestors gathered outside to rally against random searches.

John Smith, Protestor: "It's nonsense to say that if I've got nothing to hide, I've got nothing to fear from the searches. The people must have the power to hide information from the government. Information is power!"

The New York Civil Liberties Union which brought the suit contends that searches as random as those which have been conducted are useless in deterring terrorism. They say they only serve to violate individual rights for riders.

Donna Lieberman, NY Civil Liberties Union: "It's a serious intrusion that is not going to protect us from terrorism but is going to undermine significantly our right to privacy."

But the city says these are different times and special measures are needed.

Gail Donoghue, NYC Corporation Counsel: "The city is trying to provide safety to everybody, not just for some people but for all the citizens of the city and that's a very important thing to do."

Judge Berman's ruling came just after 3:15 p.m. The New York Civil Liberties Union had already said that should they lose this case they will appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court.

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