New York City to Pay $15 Million in Damages for Illegal Loitering Charges

A federal court in Manhattan today approved a class action settlement requiring New York City to pay $15 million dollars to approximately 22,000 New Yorkers who were illegally charged by the New York City Police Department under unconstitutional “loitering” statutes between 1983 and this year. The NYPD continued to enforce these void statutes for decades after New York State and federal courts had struck down these laws in the 1980s and 1990s, on First Amendment and other constitutional grounds. The settlement also provides for injunctive relief for the class, including ongoing training by the NYPD, monitoring, and other measures to ensure that the void laws are not enforced again in the future.

The unconstitutional loitering laws under which the NYPD illegally charged tens of thousands of New Yorkers are N.Y. Penal Law § 240.35(1) (“loitering for the purpose of begging”), § 240.35(3) (loitering in a public place for the purpose of engaging in “sexual behavior of a deviate nature”), and § 240.35(7) (loitering in a transportation facility and “unable to give a satisfactory explanation of his presence”).

Plaintiffs are represented by Katie Rosenfeld and Matthew D. Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, along with co-counsel The Bronx Defenders.

In approximately three months, notice and a claim form will be sent to all 22,000 people in the class. Class members must return the claim form to be eligible for payment. Persons who think they are in the class may call 1-800-846-0798 or go to  nycloitering.com for more information.

To read the press release, click  here. To read the New York Times article about the case, click  here. To read the Wall Street Journal article, click  here.

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