N.Y. ruling says bikers have same search protections as car drivers

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A New York State Court of Appeals has ruled that bicyclists should be treated like motorists when it comes to traffic stops.

Last week, the appeals court ruled in a strict 4-3 decision that a New York City man pleaded guilty to weapons charges after officers saw him moving his bicycle by mistake and a large item of clothing next to him. The Court of Appeals held that the police lacked probable cause for a search, and that traffic stops involving bicycles required the same standards as stops of automobiles.

Daniel Lambreit, senior staff attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, who filed an amicus brief in support of the defendant, said cyclists must follow the same road rules as cars, so they should have the same protections when pulled over. .

“Cycling is often thought of as a hobby, but it’s becoming integrated into people’s everyday lives,” he said. “It’s important to protect them and make sure they aren’t stopped at will by a suspicious authority.”

The decision involves a showing of “public authority” to stop a vehicle, so it requires a higher level of probable cause than contact on foot. The ruling states that a police officer’s stop on a bicycle is an exercise of the same governmental power, and requires the same protection from illegal search and seizure.

“If an individual is driving in a car, they need what is called reasonable doubt because stopping a car is a seizure, so this requires a higher level of trust,” he said.

Law enforcement agencies have criticized the move, with New York Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Peter Kehoe arguing the decision makes it harder for officers to be proactive rather than reactive.

Even if their mind tells them the wrong thing, they cannot stop them because there is no good reason or reasonable suspicion to stop that person, he said.

he said. Spectrum News 1 The previous treatment of cyclists similar to pedestrians gave officers the necessary cover to intervene when they sensed something was not right.

“What happens is you err on the side of caution to avoid civil liability,” he said. “So there are going to be some crimes that should be detected and prevented.”

Lambright emphasized that the goal here is to prevent suspensions based largely on race and economic factors. He notes that police still have tools at their disposal, such as waiting for a traffic violation to make a constitutional stop if they fear a crime is being committed.

“All these stops are based on guesswork and perception,” he said.

Kehoe stressed that while he doesn’t feel bias plays a role in most of these stops and condemns either, he welcomes the ruling and is not surprised the court has gone in this direction. The association has already sent the instructions to the individual units and said that these organizations will pass on the current training systems to the deputy representatives.

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