Back to All Press Release

NYCLU Hails Introduction Of Civil Rights Legislation To End Unlawful NYPD Practice

The New York Civil Liberties Union has called on the City Council to pass landmark civil rights legislation that was introduced today by Council member Bill Perkins. Known as the "Charge or Release Bill # 649,” it would mandate that individuals arrested in New York City are arraigned within 24 hours of arrest. The legislation seeks to resolve the serious problem highlighted during the Republican National Convention when hundreds of protesters were held far in excess of 24 hours and often charged with minor violations. The NYCLU and New York City Bill of Rights Defense Campaign revealed new research that indicates that holding arrestees for longer than 24 hours is routine in many parts of the City, particularly in communities of color.

“The law states that no one should be held for longer than 24 hours without being formally charged before a judge,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “But we are concerned that the practice of prolonged detention targeted protesters charged with minor offenses at the RNC, and on a daily basis, has a disproportionate impact on people of color. The Charge or Release bill will bring New York City into compliance with the 24-hour rule.”

A 1991 New York Court of Appeals decision (Roundtree, et al. v. Brown) ruled that individuals arrested in New York must be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. Yet that ruling is routinely ignored in New York City.

The NYCLU yesterday released a study of NYPD arrest statistics for the months immediately following the RNC. The data compiled by the New York City Bill of Rights Defense Campaign (NYCBORDC) reveals that in October and November 2004 more than 16,000 arrestees were held for longer than 24 hours in New York City. A shocking 62 percent of arrestees in the Bronx—the borough with the largest minority population—were held for longer than 24 hours, the highest percentage among the five boroughs. The lowest percentage was in Queens, where 21 percent of those arrested were held longer than 24 hours. More details can be found at

“The excessive detention that occurred during the RNC is a routine occurrence in the criminal justice system, and is a problem that unfortunately is faced daily by communities of color of New York City,” said Udi Ofer, Project Director of NYBORDC. “Adding insult to injury, the majority of those arrested is eventually charged with low level offenses and would likely face no jail time if convicted. While individuals sit in often overcrowded detention facilities, they are forced to miss work or school or scramble to find emergency child care.”

The Charge or Release bill would promote greater transparency and accountability by mandating that the NYPD and Department of Correction provide quarterly reports on the number of individuals detained longer than 24 hours with explanation for the prolonged detentions.

The New York City Bill of Rights Defense Campaign is a volunteer driven campaign of the NYCLU that has spearheaded the movement to introduce the Charge or Release bill. Campaign members have built a diverse coalition of organizations representing the broad nature of the problem. NYCBORDC has worked successfully in the past to pass the Bill of Rights and Right to Assemble resolutions.

Organizations endorsing the Charge or Release bill include Harlem Neighborhood Defender Services, Grand Council of Guardians, NAACP State Chapter, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Legal Aid Society, Women of Color Policy Network, Correctional Association, and New Immigrant Community Empowerment.

The findings for the Charge or Release Bill were completed by NYBORDC Project Associate Yanilda Gonzalez.

As bold as the spirit of New York, we are the NYCLU.
© 2024 New York
Civil Liberties Union