‘Pretextual stops’ were deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court. Almost anywhere else, the stops are usually used as a pretext to search for drugs since the gun laws in most states are nowhere as strict as in NY City.
Under NYPD enforcement guidelines outlined in a March 31 memo that cited the new pot law ban, cops are banned from searching a vehicle’s trunk just because they smell pot during a traffic stop.
The “sweeping changes” — which took effect immediately — also prohibit cops from searching anyone just for toking up “almost anywhere that cigarette smoking is allowed.”
But large numbers of gun busts have typically been made by cops who smell fresh or burnt marijuana after pulling over a car, according to NYPD sources.
Last year, 33 percent of all gun-possession arrests resulted from vehicle stops, with a majority of those also involving weed, a source familiar with the matter said.
Before the new law went into effect, that number rose to 45 percent this year, the source said.
NYPD statistics show that there were a total of 1,409 gun arrests — or an average of 108 a week — from Jan. 4 through April 4.
But during the five weeks that ended May 9, most of which were covered by the new pot law, there were just 209 gun busts — cutting the average by more than half to just 53 a week.
At the same time, shootings during April skyrocketed 166 percent — to 149 from 56 during the same month in 2020, according to NYPD CompStat data released last week.
The past week also saw shootings more than double — to 36 from 15 — compared to the same period last year.
That grim tally included the three innocent bystanders wounded by stray bullets in Times Square on Saturday — among them a 4-year-old girl from Brooklyn, Skye Martinez, who was shopping for toys with her family.
The suspect in that case — Farrakhan Muhammad, a 31-year-old CD peddler — was allegedly aiming at his brother when he opened fire at the Crossroads of the World, sources have said.
“These laws are handcuffing cops and creating a Wild West environment where everyone carries a gun and settles their problems on the spot with a shootout,” a law enforcement source said.
Countless numbers of guns were taken off the streets during vehicle searches that can no longer be conducted thanks to the new weed law, sources said.
Recent examples include:
- A .380-caliber pistol was seized after cops stopped a car at Lorimer and Boerum streets in Brooklyn for having excessively tinted windows around 7 p.m. on March 17. Cops smelled weed and the driver became very agitated, so the cops searched him and his passenger, who was carrying the gun.
- A .45-caliber pistol and a revolver were seized after cops stopped a car for failing to signal in front of 15 Grafton Street in Brooklyn around 10:45 p.m. on March 19. Cops saw some weed in plain view and the car was impounded and searched. The guns were found in the trunk.
- A .25-caliber handgun was seized after cops stopped a Honda at FDR Drive and 117th Street in Manhattan for having excessively tinted windows and an obscured license plate around 8:30 p.m. on March 19. Cops smelled pot and saw a stash on the back seat, leading to a search in which the gun was found hidden behind the car’s fuel door.
“None of these guns would be recovered today because of the new laws,” a Brooklyn detective said.
“There are way too many guns on the streets, but we need help from our elected officials to take guns off the streets — not keep them out there.”
In addition to the updated search guidelines that resulted from the legalization of pot, law-enforcement sources said cops are also being discouraged from trying to find guns due to a new law that makes it easier to sue them over alleged misconduct.
The bill eliminating the defense of “qualified immunity” for cops was passed by the City Council, 37-11, on March 25 and Mayor de Blasio quietly let it automatically become law without his signature — and go into effect immediately — on April 26.
In a letter to NYPD captains, sergeants and officers, their unions’ lawyers “strongly cautioned” them against any conducting any stops or searches “unless you are certain that you are clearly and unequivocally within the bounds of the law.”
The letter, obtained by The Post, notes that “particularly in the current environment … your actions may subject you and your family to civil liability and monetary damages.”
“Qualified immunity is talked about extensively,” a Manhattan cop said.
“Cops are worried. If they take any kind of police action, are they going too far and what, if any, are the ramifications?”
A Brooklyn cop also said the specter of getting sued “is in the back of cops’ minds when they make a car stop or confront someone.”
“Cops are definitely less proactive — but that is what the politicians want,” the officer said.
Neither City Hall nor the NYPD immediately returned requests for comment