By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com November 28 2002 1:00 AM ET
A federal judge ruled last week that New York City police officers cannot arrest a person in possession of syringes carrying drug residue if that person is a participant in a needle-exchange program, The New York Times reports. Although charges against those arrested for carrying drug paraphernalia are typically dismissed, New York police offices often "ignore the law" and arrest individuals carrying hypodermic needles, according to a lawsuit filed by the Urban Justice Center on behalf of a heroin user who was arrested in 1999 for carrying a needle obtained through a Manhattan needle-exchange program.
U.S. district judge Robert Sweet, in his ruling in the lawsuit, said that because the goal of needle-exchange programs is to encourage drug users to exchange used needles for clean ones, arresting them for carrying used needles is "bizarre" and "frustrates that goal." Daliah Heller, executive director of CitiWide Harm Reduction, which runs a needle-exchange program in the South Bronx, said that the ruling could increase participation in needle-exchange programs and help prevent the spread of HIV by removing the threat of arrest for those carrying used needles.