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Supreme Court hears stop, fingerprint and photo arguments

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A decision from the Supreme Court is expected by early July.

The Michigan Supreme Court’s oral arguments Tuesday included a legal challenge to a Grand Rapids police policy that allows officers to fingerprint and photograph people who are being questioned and don’t have an ID.

The plaintiffs in this nearly 10-year-old case are two Black men who --- in separate instances as teenagers -- were stopped, questioned, photographed and fingerprinted. Neither was ever charged with a crime. The challenge claims the policy violates privacy rights.

Elizabeth Fossel is the director of legal affairs for Grand Rapids, who told the court the policy is not used in a “carte blanche” manner, and that it does not violate the privacy rights of people walking on the street.

“Michigan law currently holds that taking fingerprints does not violate the 4th Amendment because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in one’s fingerprints,” she told the court during the arguments, which were held online.

But Dan Korobkin of the ACLU said there are privacy rights in public places.

“And there’s no question that fingerprinting something is not something that a casual observer walking down the street can do to you or you would have a reasonable expectation that they can do to you,” he said.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in 2019 that the policy is not a violation of 4th Amendment rights.

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