N.Y. Judge Extends Initial Detention Period for Looters Due to Civil Unrest

A New York judge has ruled that looters and peaceful protesters who violate curfew may be detained by police for more than 24 hours even if they are not arraigned before a court, citing the coronavirus pandemic and current civil unrest in New York City.

New York law typically requires that arrested suspects be released if they cannot be arraigned within 24 hours. Because of the pandemic, New York courts must hold arraignments via video conference. Holding facilities in New York City have seen a sharp increase in suspects arrested either for looting or peacefully protesting after an 8 p.m. curfew, and the legal system has been unable to speedily process their arraignments.

“I…find that there is a crisis within a crisis specifically a civil unrest crisis within the overarching COVID-19 crisis,” acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James Burke said at a hearing on Thursday. “To that end, the entire police department has been deployed and the entire Manhattan DA’s office is ‘all hands on deck’ and working to relieve the system.”

Burke said that delays in processing arraignments were justified given the dual crises.

“The NYPD has no excuses with its 38,000 police officers and the best technology in the world, with all the money they are being given, they have no excuse to not process them in a timely manner,” countered Marlen Bodden, an attorney for the group Legal Aid that had petitioned for the release of suspects in George Floyd demonstrations.

Over the past week, looters have taken advantage of the demonstrations to pillage stores in various New York City neighborhoods, with some concentrating on the wealthy neighborhoods of Soho and Midtown Manhattan.

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