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Time Out NY – January 24, 2011

Our lecture in one minute: “Know Your Rights” workshop
January 24, 2011
Read the original here.

It’s possible that you’ll get stopped by a police officer at some point in your life—but what’s the best way to respond? On Thursday 27, National Lawyers Guild–NYC Street Law Team members Kate Watson and Paula Z. Segal (both students at the CUNY School of Law) will dispense practical advice for dealing with the fuzz. Find out what you can expect.

Paula Z. Segal: “The Street Law project emerged as a response to astounding stop-and-search numbers from the New York Police Department. Sometimes people jokingly refer to this workshop as ‘oppression management.’ We generally get a sense of the room, and talk to people a little bit about what their interactions with police are like, and then we break down the anatomy of an encounter.”

Kate Watson: “We do a lot of role-playing. We call up people who are attending the workshop, and we try to have one audience member be an officer, and one audience member be the person who is getting approached. We give them scripts, and we try to prepare them a little bit before we send them up onto the stage.”

Segal: “One of the most important parts of [the workshop] is actually giving everybody a chance to get into the role of a police officer, and to dissect the encounter from that perspective. When you’re the person on the street who’s suddenly being approached by a police officer, you don’t have a sense of where you’re at. All you know is, Wow, suddenly I’m talking to this cop.”—As told to Alison Zeidman

GET THE SCOOP Flux Factory, 39-31 29th St between 39th and 40th Aves, Long Island City, Queens (718-707-3362, Thu 27 at 7pm; free.

Five rights that New Yorkers need to know

NLG-NYC Street Law Team members Kate Watson and Paula Z. Segal, who lead the “Know Your Rights” workshop at Flux Factory on Thursday, January 27, explain five legal rights that New Yorkers should be aware of. We encourage you to use these points as guidelines only, not actual legal advice. For further research, check with organizations such as the NYC Rent Guidelines Board, the National Lawyers Guild, or

If you’ve been detained, mum’s the word.
“You always have the right to remain silent. You really don’t know how something you say might be construed; as we all know, anything you say or do can be used against you in court. You might be incriminating yourself, you might be incriminating a friend, you really don’t know.”

In criminal cases, you always have a lawyer—even if you, well, don’t (yet).
“As soon as you are in an encounter with the criminal justice system, you have the right to an attorney, and you can start referring to that person long before you meet them. [You can] say to a police officer who has detained you, ‘I don’t want to talk to you without my lawyer here,’ even if you’ve never met a lawyer in your life.”

You can say no to an illegal police search.
“You have a right to not be illegally searched. [Voicing dissent] doesn’t mean that you won’t be searched, but if [the search is] done without probable cause, or without reason, then whatever the police find can’t be used against [you].”
Segal: “[Say out loud that you don’t consent] even if you think you don’t have anything to hide, because you don’t know what they’re looking for.”

If you’re bundling up indoors, your landlord might be breaking the law.
“Between October 1st and May 31st, between six o’clock in the morning and ten o’clock at night, if it’s below 55 degrees outside, it has to be at least 68 degrees in your house. Between ten at night and six in the morning, if it’s below 40 it has to be at least 55 in your house, and your hot water has to be at least 120°F all year round. [If that’s not the case and] your landlord isn’t responsive, you can call 311.”

Eviction notice? Don’t pack your bags just yet.
“Go to housing court and answer the notice right away; then, your landlord can’t just put you out on the street. If conditions in your apartment are really horrible and you’ve been withholding rent until your landlord addresses them, your landlord [can’t simply] evict you. They have to prove that the eviction is legal and lawful.”—As told to Alison Zeidman

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