The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the NYC Administrative Code provision prohibiting and criminalizing the use of certain methods of restraint in effecting an arrest was not void for vagueness.
Plaintiffs challenge Administrative Code § 10-181 as unconstitutionally vague and preempted by New York State law. This provision, which became effective July 15, 2020, makes it a criminal misdemeanor to use certain methods of restraint “in the course of effecting or attempting to effect an arrest” (Administrative Code § 10-181[a]). Specifically, the statute prohibits “restrain[ing] an individual in a manner that restricts the flow of air or blood by compressing the windpipe or the carotid arteries on each side of the neck [the chokehold ban], or sitting, kneeling, or standing on the chest or back in a manner that compresses the diaphragm [the diaphragm compression ban]” ,,, , …
The only language plaintiffs take issue with is “in a manner that compresses the diaphragm.” But the meaning of this language, even if “imprecise” or “open-ended,” is sufficiently definite “when measured by common understanding and practices” … . Police officers — the targets of the law — can be (and are) trained on the location and function of the diaphragm. And even plaintiffs have no difficulty understanding the meaning of the word “compress” when used in the context of the accompanying chokehold ban, which they do not challenge. That it may not be the most accurate word, from a medical standpoint, to describe what happens to the diaphragm when someone sits, kneels, or stands on it does not mean that it is incapable of being understood. Police Benevolent Assn. of the City of N.Y., Inc. v City of New York, 2022 NY Slip Op 03329 First Dept 5-19-22
Practice Point: The NYC Administrative Code provision which prohibits and criminalizes “compressing the diaphragm” by sitting, kneeling or standing on a person when effecting an arrest is not void for vagueness.