Habeas Corpus Is Being Violated in New York, Where Those Arrested May Be Held Beyond 24 Hours, Experts Say

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The new ruling came last week amid mass arrests during protests across the city.

As the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests continued in New York City with no end in sight, 92 people had been arrested and held for more than 24 hours without being charged as of last Friday, according to the Legal Aid Society. And while a judge in New York last week made it legal to hold people arrested in the state for more than 24 hours without charges or an arraignment, some legal experts are calling the move a violation of habeas corpus. 

In 1991, Roundtree v. Brown determined there should be no more than 24 hours between arrest and arraignment in New York, but police asked for that rule to be temporarily suspended due to the high volume of arrests in the city amid protests.

New York City Criminal Court Judge James Burke cited civil unrest and the pandemic as his reasoning for the decision. NYPD had argued for the need of “extreme measures to maintain order,” according to reports.

The Legal Aid Society appealed the decision on June 5.

“The NYPD is not above the law, and detaining New Yorkers for more than 24 hours after an arrest and denying them speedy access to a judge violates of our fundamental standards of justice," Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society, said in a press release. 

A spokesperson for the Legal Aid Society, told Inside Edition Digital that the decision is a denial of due process “for hundreds arrested at protests over the last week.” They also noted that in light of coronavirus, placing people in jail puts them at risk.

Hubert Plummer, a New York attorney, called the ruling a violation of habeas corpus, a 900-year-old law listed in the constitution, that gives anyone arrested the right to appear before a judge or court as an effort to prevent unlawful or indefinite imprisonment. It can be be suspended only in cases of rebellion or invasion, according to the constitution. 

Before last week, it had last been suspended in the U.S. during by President Abraham Lincoln the Civil War in 1861. 

The recent New York ruling doesn't give a time limit for when those arrested have to be arraigned, and that's a huge issue, Plummer said.

“Habeas corpus is guaranteed by our constitutional right that is essential to our freedom status as Americans,” Plummer told Inside Edition Digital. “For the government to suspend or ignore that right is giving police a free rein on how they are handling this.”

New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also condemned the decision on Twitter last week. 

“Civil liberties protect ourselves from governments using “crises” and “emergencies” as justification to dismantle our rights,” she wrote. “This is suspension of habeas corpus, it is unconstitutional, and it is deeply disturbing that both NYPD is seeking it and a judge rubber stamped it.”