Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New York Court Finds Post-Critical Incident Breathalyzer Legal Under Some Circumstances

In Palladino v. City of New York (S.D.N.Y., June 28, 2012, 07 CV 9246 GBD) 2012 WL 2497272, a federal court in New York decided NYPD’s policy of requiring a breathalyzer for officer who discharged firearms in critical incidents was constitutional under some circumstances. The case started after NYPD required all uniformed members involved in firearms discharges resulting in injury to or death of a person be subjected to Department administered alcohol testing. The stated purpose of the policy was to ensure the highest levels of integrity at the scene of officer involved shootings.

Law enforcement unions sued, arguing the policy was an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. However, the Court decided the primary purpose of the policy was to deter police officers from becoming intoxicated and discharging their weapon, which qualified as a “special need”. The Court decided NYPD officers carrying and discharging firearms had diminished expectations of privacy, the breathalyzer test was not an overly intrusive search, the policy was applied uniformly, and the policy was narrowly tailored to accomplish NYPD's goals of ensuring compliance with its policies regarding personnel management.  The ruling only addresses the constitutionality of the policy and not whether it would violate California state laws such as POBR.