If you get arrested in Queens, you might get interrogated before being arraigned or meeting with a lawyer — a practice which the New York Civil Liberties Union has decried as “unconstitutional” and “unethical” in a legal brief filed today against the borough’s District Attorney.
The NYCLU claims that Queens D.A. Richard Brown’s program, in operation since 2007, unfairly targets those who are too poor to find a lawyer.
Here’s what happens, according to the civil rights group: when a person is jailed because of a cop’s testimony, the constitution and state law require: “that a judge quickly determine whether the arrest was valid, appoint an attorney, and determine the conditions of release so the person can return to work, home, and family pending the disposition of the criminal case.”
In Queens, wealthier suspects who retain an attorney do get the green light to proceed to court for this hearing.
If you are indigent, however, you get put into a room “just next door” to the court, where a prosecutor interrogates you, the NYCLU argues.
In there, prosecutors are said to mislead suspects by implying that they “will have no other opportunity to ‘tell us your story.'”
For the NYCLU, this is a clear violation of the Fifth Amendment, as it can lead to self incrimination. The group also feels that it’s an unethical practice, since lawyers are not supposed to give advice to non-lawyers whose “interests are adverse to the lawyer’s interests.”
Runnin’ Scared checked in with the Queens D.A. for comment.
The office wouldn’t talk about the brief.
But a spokesman e-mailed us this statement: “The District Attorney’s office declines to comment as the matter is being litigated.”
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.