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ACLU objects to Raimondo plan empowering State Police to stop vehicles with NY plates

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“…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.”


Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo today signed an executive order mandating that anyone traveling to Rhode Island from New York must self-quarantine for 14 days, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Raimondo announced that she has directed the Rhode Island State Police to flag down cars with New York plates entering the state. The driver and passenger would be required to give contact information to the State Police when pulled over. “The Governor also reassured Rhode Islanders that contact information collected from travelers in order to monitor quarantining will not be used for any purpose or be shared with any state or federal agency other than the Department of Health,” said a press release.

ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown took issue with this:

“While the Governor may have the power to suspend some state laws and regulations to address this medical emergency, she cannot suspend the Constitution,” said Brown. “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.”

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com