The NYPD makes tens of thousands of arrests every year, the vast majority of them for low-level misdemeanors. Property is seized in nearly every one of those arrests, including cash, cellphones, IDs, keys, cars, and even prescription medicine.
The South Bronx is one of the poorest and most over-policed congressional districts in the country, which makes our clients particularly vulnerable to the consequences of abuses of property seizure and retention. Seized cash in amounts of $50 or $100 can mean the difference between a family eating or going hungry for the week. And in a borough where many working poor people live far from public transportation, a seized car can mean inability to commute to work.
The Bronx Defenders is leading a three-pronged strategy to bring greater transparency to these practices, represent those who are disproportionately affected by them, and end the unconstitutional withholding of money and property seized by the NYPD during an arrest.
- Ensure public access to the NYPD’s seized property data. Government documents have shown that the NYPD receives millions of dollars each year through civil forfeiture and allegedly unclaimed property, though the NYPD does not publicly account for this money and other seized property. The Bronx Defenders worked with elected officials and community partners to pass Intro 1000-B, a law requiring the NYPD to report on seized property data on an annual basis. We’re also challenging lack of transparency on this issue before the Supreme Court of the State of New York.
- Represent those most vulnerable to property seizure and civil forfeiture abuses. Through our Civil Action Practice, we assist hundreds of low-income Bronx residents every year who would otherwise have no legal representation in property seizure procedures. In 2017 alone, we recovered over $88,500 for over 700 clients.
- Reform policies & process for New Yorkers to retrieve what is rightfully theirs. Every person arrested by the NYPD — even if the arrest leads to dismissal — has historically dealt with the virtually impossible process of securing a property release from the district attorney’s office and presenting it to the NYPD Property Clerk in order to retrieve their belongings. Our Impact Litigation team secured a settlement with New York City in a civil rights lawsuit ending the NYPD’s unconstitutional practice of indefinitely holding personal property from the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers arrested each year. As a result, New York City will implement a series of reforms, and the progress of these reforms will be monitored by The Bronx Defenders for two years.
To learn more about this issue, read this FAQ and watch our video!
What are your rights when the NYPD seizes your money and property? Click on the image to download Know Your Rights: Civil Forfeiture.