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NYPD has been violating bail reform laws on DUIs, says class action lawsuit

June 17, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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A class action lawsuit was filed in the Brooklyn Supreme Court this week against the City of New York, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, and a series of individual police officers for allegedly violating a bail reform law.

The law firm of Barket Epstein is taking the case, and will represent a group of New Yorkers who were allegedly wrongfully detained following a DUI.

According to the suit, New York City, through the NYPD, violates a bail reform law by falsely imprisoning people charged with driving under the influence of alcohol with blood alcohol levels below 0.08. Under the current law, people who blow less than 0.08 are supposed to be given a desk appearance ticket and immediately released, the suit claims.

“This is yet another example of the over prosecution of New York City residents charged with DWI based simply on the crime charged and with reckless disregard for the circumstances surrounding each person’s case,” said Steven Epstein, a founding partner at Barket Epstein and head of the firm’s DWI and Vehicular Crimes group.

“Unfortunately, while bail reform was passed to ensure that people are not unnecessarily jailed, a large population has nevertheless been arrested and imprisoned in precincts and jails across the five boroughs by the NYPD,” said attorney Alexander Klein. “This practice of false imprisonment violates express statutory law of New York State, as well as the due process rights of its victims.”

Klein added that since March, this dangerous alleged practice by the NYPD further puts people in danger by exposing them to COVID-19 in prisons.

“The majority of men and women represented in this class action lawsuit are first-time offenders,” Klein said. “The experience of spending days or even nights locked in precincts, or worse, in notorious jails like Bronx Central Booking or Manhattan’s ‘Tombs,’ has been frightening for the victims and their families.”

Lawyers from Barket Epstein explained that they have had clients detained until arraignment, and have claimed that this practice violates their clients’ state and federal rights to due process.

“Defendant Shea has been grossly negligent in supervising subordinates who have continued effectuating these detentions, which is how this illegal practice has become so widespread,” Klein wrote in the summons and complaint.

Among their requests, the plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages and they’re seeking a permanent injunction to bar the NYPD from detaining people unlawfully.

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