A federal judge in Manhattan ruled on Thursday that loitering rules in public housing were too vague, and gave police too much power to arrest, according to the New York Times.
Judge Shira Scheindlin allowed a lawsuit challenging arrests for trespassing in housing projects this week, questioning whether the city and the Housing Authority are “acting within constitutional limits in their presumably sincere efforts to provide a safe environment for the residents of public housing,” according to the article.
Scheindlin ruled that the police cannot arrest someone for trespassing “if the only facts known to the police are that the person says she does not live in the building and refuses to say more about her license or privilege to be there,” and concluded that signs in public housing complexes that prohibit loitering are unconstitutionally vague, when they are the basis for police arrests.
Brenda Cooke, a lawyer for the city, told the Times that Scheindlin’s ruling does not mean that police patrols in NYCHA common areas are unlawful.
In one case that Scheindlin allowed to go forward, Lashaun Smith, 34, claimed that cops stopped him as he was leaving a friend’s home at the Langston Hughes Apartments in Brownsville. According to the paper, he was arrested when the person who answered the door to the apartment could not corroborate his story.
Scheindlin noted, though, that the person answering the door was the younger brother of Smith’s friend, who is blind.