ACLU challenges governor's New York plan as unconstitutional

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island is challenging one of Gov. Gina Raimondo's newest executive maneuvers to thwart the spread of coronavirus as unconstitutional.  Though indicating support for many of the measures she has taken to protect Rhode Islanders from the virus, the ACLU is questioning the new directive to have state troopers stopping and questioning any passenger car entering Rhode Island with New York plates.c

The metro New York City area is one of the hottest zones in the world for COVID-19 contamination, and there are reports of New Yorkers leaving to take refuge in homes throughout Rhode Island and Cape Cod.

Following is the full  statement released by the ACLU:

ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement in response to comments from Governor Gina Raimondo at her news conference today that she plans to give State Police the power to stop any car with New York license plates in order to obtain contact information from the driver and passengers:

“While the Governor may have the power to suspend some state laws and regulations to address this medical emergency, she cannot suspend the Constitution. Under the Fourth Amendment, having a New York state license plate simply does not, and cannot, constitute ‘probable cause’ to allow police to stop a car and interrogate the driver, no matter how laudable the goal of the stop may be.

“The ACLU recognizes that strong measures are needed to address the public health crisis we are witnessing, but giving the State Police the power to stop any New York-registered cars that are merely traveling through the state is a blunderbuss approach that cannot be justified in light of its substantial impact on civil liberties. 

“The Governor has taken many steps to address this crisis that carefully balance public health needs and the civil rights of citizens. This one does not.  We urge her not to follow through with such an ill-advised and unconstitutional plan.”

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