PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island is questioning the constitutionality of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s directive allowing state police to stop vehicles with New York license plates to collect information from drivers and passengers in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Democratic governor on Thursday called the measure extreme but pointed out that the New York City area is the epicenter of the disease in the U.S.

While Raimondo has the authority to suspend some state laws and regulations to address a medical emergency, she cannot suspend the Constitution, ACLU of Rhode Island Executive Director Steven Brown said in a statement late Thursday.

“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,” he said.

The governor’s directive is simply to ensure that travelers from New York staying in Rhode Island know they are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, Raimondo’s spokesman said.

“We’re dealing with an unprecedented, high-risk situation, and this action falls within the emergency powers granted to the governor to keep Rhode Islanders safe,” spokesman Josh Block said in an email Friday.

The information collected from travelers will be used only for public health reasons, not for police or immigration purposes, Raimondo said.

Rhode Island has more than 160 confirmed cases of COVID-19, state health officials said Thursday.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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Comments (8)
  1. Rick Smith says:

    Stopping a car doesn’t require probable cause ACLU. It requires reasonable suspicion, a lesser standard. If you saw a vehicle coming from New York, would you think it is more reasonable than not that it may have someone with the virus. That’s all you need. Probably even less given the state of emergency. Community caretaking.

    1. JM says:

      So is this any different than stopping illegal entry through our southern border ? Jim Acosta says it is unconscionable to stop border crossings in Texas. But its ok to stop New Yorkers from entering the Great Commonwealth of Rhode Island.

  2. Lis says:

    I love it pull em over!!!. Stay home and stop spreading the virus you selfish idiots!

    1. J.M. says:

      As a Texan I am glad to see that you now recognize the importance of borders.

  3. chaves says:

    ACLU is a criminal organization

  4. M.I. says:

    This is not about rights. It’s about WE DON’T WANT EVERYONE TO DIE EVEN IF IT WOULD MAKE PEOPLE FROM NYC FEEL ALL SPECIAL AND TINGLY. SO SICK OF NYC BEING THE NATION’S DIVA.

  5. Jay Mayer says:

    When referring to stopping illegals crossing our southern border : Biden says “This is not who we are ! ” ; Pelosi says “We are a country that welcomes everyone” ; Schumer says “It is unAmerican to stop people at our borders, the Wall is a horrible thing”. But it is OK I guess to stop New Yorkers at the RI border. Go figure ?? Rhode Island now recognizes the importance of borders. Where is Jim Acosta when we need him ?

  6. So, RI Governor is late to call for a shelter in place order for her state and wants to pull a Trump, and blame someone else for her leadership failure. Shameful, maybe she’ll waive taxes this year on all the NYers who are RI homeowners.

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