City DAs decline to prosecute most social distancing-related arrests

Kimberly Dole
May 13, 2020 - 1:24 pm

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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- The city’s five district attorneys offices won’t prosecute most social distancing-related arrests, officials said Tuesday.

“As a matter of policy our office declines to prosecute arrests for social distancing and other violations of the recent emergency executive orders,” said Manhattan DA spokesman Danny Frost.

Only a handful of more serious offenses stemming from social-distancing stops will be pursued, he said.

Two of the six cases sent to the office are being prosecuted, including a 27-year-old man who was charged with resisting arrest after he refused an officer’s command to disperse.

On Tuesday, the NYPD reported 125 “COVID-19 related” arrests.

The Brooklyn DA’s office is also not prosecuting certain misdemeanors and violations, according to spokesman Oren Yaniv.

“This is pursuant to our COVID-19 policy of declining certain low-level offenses where there is no victim or public safety component,” he said, adding that the policy applied to a wide array of crimes to reduce the number of defendants in the system.

Bronx DA Darcel Clark says their office has followed suit and they are aware of 22 distancing related arrests that each involve multiple charges.

“As with arrests for other low-level non-violent offenses, we decline to prosecute violations solely for social distancing enforcement,” she said. “Whenever possible, NYPD should issue summonses instead of making live arrests.”

Approximately bout 20 distancing related arrests were referred to the Queens DA,  Melinda Katz's office. She said her office will not prosecute distancing arrests. "Nobody wants a health crisis to fuel a criminal justice crisis,” Katz said in a statement.

Staten Island's Richmond County DA Michael McMahon’s office has reported any arrests stemming from city’s COVID-19 policy, a spokesman said.

“If a misdemeanor or felony arrest related to social-distancing enforcement were made by police, we would evaluate the facts and evidence on an individual basis before making a charging decision, as we do in all cases,” McMahon said in a statement.

About 400 summonses for violations of social-distancing protocols or other emergency measures related to the coronavirus have been issued by the NYPD which aren't handled by the DA’s offices.

90 percent of NYPD's 'COVID-19 related' arrests were people of color and can lead to arrests if a person doesn’t have identification or disobeys an officer’s order.

According to Patrick Lynch, President of the Police Benevolent Association, there's almost no point in making arrests if they won’t be prosecuted.

“We’re not just wasting our time — we’re unnecessarily jeopardizing our health and careers,” he said. “The NYPD brass has to stop this charade and let cops focus on our core public safety mission.”