Stop NYPD from punishing free speech by prosecuting New Yorkers for low-level violations like jaywalking

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In February, 2016, Manhattan DA Cy Vance’s office signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NYPD to outsource prosecution of low-level violations like jaywalking to the NYPD’s Legal Bureau.

That means that if you exercise your First Amendment rights to protest, the NYPD can prosecute you for jaywalking. (Yes, jaywalking!)

This is a blatant assault on our freedoms. Sign the petition and tell Cy Vance not to let NYPD prosecute their own summons.

For NYPD to serve as both police and prosecutor is a conflict of interest that invites abuse of power — particularly when the targets are New Yorkers engaged in legitimate political expression. It is time for DA Vance to do the job he was elected to do, and rescind his agreement that lets the NYPD prosecute low-level violations.

Two protesters were recently put on trial for jaywalking and blocking a sidewalk.

On March 7, 2016, Cristina Winsor and Arminta Jeffryes took part in a Black Lives Matter protest in lower Manhattan. NYPD officers arrested Winsor and Jeffryes and detained them before issuing Winsor a summons for blocking a sidewalk and Jeffryes for jaywalking. When the two protesters arrived in court, expecting a typical summons trial, they were instead prosecuted by a NYPD attorney.

It's a threat to all New Yorkers.

The NYPD’s prosecution of summons cases has been used almost exclusively for the prosecution of New Yorkers exercising their First Amendment right to protest (and for a recent crackdown on vendors). These politically-motivated prosecutions punish some demonstrators and chill the participation of others who can’t afford the risk of a trial.

For NYPD to prosecute those it arrests is a conflict of interest.

The NYPD’s heavy-handed prosecution of common low-level violations removes one of the most important protections we have against the powers of local law enforcement agencies.

No DA prosecutes every case that law enforcement brings to them. When DAs consider the public interest merits of each case before going to trial, they serve as a check on the potentially overzealous actions of law enforcement.

By outsourcing this responsibility to the NYPD, Vance has removed this important check on their power. The NYPD’s lawyers are incentivized not only to prosecute crimes, but to protect the Department from liability. Rather than offer standard dismissals, NYPD attorneys routinely require defendants to admit that their arrests were justified, eliminating any possible defense if their case is ever reopened.

For more information:

"Two New Yorkers Were Tried for Jaywalking and Blocking a Sidewalk. How Did This Happen?"

"FAQ: Why Were Two Black Lives Matter Protestors On Trial for Jaywalking and Blocking a Sidewalk In NYC?"

Photo: Johnny Silvercloud

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