NEW YORK — The anti-chokehold law in New York City that was written in reaction to George Floyd’s death had a portion struck down on Tuesday by a Manhattan judge who said it was “unconstitutionally vague,” according to court documents.
New York Supreme Court Justice Laurence Love handed down the ruling on the controversial legislation, called the “diaphragm law.” It is the latest development in a nearly 11-month legal battle fought by a coalition of 18 police unions, New York Post reported.
Specifically, cops have taken issue with a portion of the new law that prohibits techniques that would press a suspect’s diaphragm. They’ve argued it “criminalize[d] the lawful use of force” while threatening the safety of New Yorkers.
Justice Love agreed, saying the unions “have demonstrated that Section 10-181 is unconstitutionally vague as the phrase ‘compresses the diaphragm’ cannot be adequately defined as written.”
“It is this Court’s sincere hope that the New York City Council will revisit this issue to address this vital matter,” he added.
The clause is more restrictive than merely banning chokeholds, but allowed prosecutors to file misdemeanor charges against police officers if they used any move during an arrest that restricted the person’s breathing “in any way.”
In essence, something as simply as a “bear hug” could be viewed as a criminal violation based upon the wording of the law. It also criminalized many ground fighting techniques. This created quite a quandary for police.
The restrictions were crafted and passed by the City Council and signed into law last summer by Mayor de Blasio.
The “diaphragm law” sparked outrage from police agencies surrounding New York City. They instructed their officers to avoid making arrests in the Big Apple, the Post reported.
“The City is reviewing its legal options,” according to a law department spokesperson.