Your rights in New York

bag search on the subwayHaving people visit from out of town is a reminder of what inconveniences & impositions we get used to living in New York. Aside from the random convergence of police cars in downtown & midtown to practice, definitely one of the most unnerving is the randomly asserted right to search your “large backpacks and packages” on the subway. Somehow, the knowledge that this search is not exactly mandatory, courtesy of the Fourth Amendment (that whole “search and seizure” thing), and therefore can be refused, makes me feel better. So as a public service to New Yorkers, here’s what you can do if you’re not interested in your bag being searched:

If you choose to walk through a random search area and are stopped, you may refuse to be searched. In fact, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said that you are free to “turn around and leave” any subway system where police are conducting random searches.Calmly and clearly say “Officer, I do not consent to any searches. I’m going to exit the station.”Then immediately exit the station — and do not return through the same entrance.  

Thank Flex Your Rights’ Citizen’s Guide to Refusing New York Subway Searches for this information, and this handy (if somewhat alarming) flyer.More on how to expand your First Amendment rights in New York City soon… 

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