Since when has it been illegal to drink out of a brown bag in public?
Shawn Randall Thomas was unlawfully detained and arrested for drinking a non-alcoholic beverage in New York City last month.
On August 28, 2015, Thomas was walking home while drinking a malta in a brown bag.
Officer Kevin McAlister (badge number 17304) saw Thomas walking with the drink and approached him demanding to see identification.
Thomas refused, stating that he wasn’t breaking the law. McAlister assumed that Thomas was drinking alcohol in public.
As the officer asked to see the container – Thomas refused. McAlister proceeded to arrest Thomas for “open container.”
Handcuffed and in the police vehicle, the officers recognized that the beverage in Thomas’ brown bag was non-alcoholic; so they let him go.
However, before they removed the handcuffs, police confiscated Thomas’ wallet, cell phone and identification, a clear violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Especially when it became clear he had committed no crime or violated any city ordinance. But those were eventually returned to him.
Thomas has retained ACLU legal backing in the past for Constitutional violations from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. He has also received a $3,500 settlement from the NYPD from a 2006 incident where he was wrongly arrested for video recording police.