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How to Get Multiple Civil Rights Lawsuits Started

After someone robs a bank, stop and cuff every single driver at a stoplight headed away from a bank, and search their vehicles.

“We didn’t have a description, didn’t know race or gender or anything, so a split-second decision was made to stop all the cars at that intersection, and search for the armed robber,” Aurora police Officer Frank Fania told ABC News.

You can stop someone with reasonable and articulable suspicion a crime has been committed. You can perform a cursory search of the individual and the immediate area for “officer safety.” (See Terry v. Ohio) But if this amounted to RAS I’ll eat my hat.

“Most of the adults were handcuffed, then were told what was going on and were asked for permission to search the car,” Fania said. “They all granted permission, and once nothing was found in their cars, they were un-handcuffed.”

So you cuff them first, then ask for permission? I would have told them to f**k off and let me go or get a warrant, but I think most people, in that situation, would just want to get it over with.

The really sad part is, from some brief research, whether handcuffing incident to a stop turns an encounter from a stop to an arrest is of mixed precedent. That means qualified immunity should hold. But that assumes they had RAS to stop at all, and here I think it can be argued that RAS does not exist. Thus, every once of these folks had their Forth and Fourteenth Amendments rights violated, and someone should be held to account for it.

10 Responses to “How to Get Multiple Civil Rights Lawsuits Started”

  1. Dann in Ohio says:

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    ~Ben Franklin

    I’m afraid few American truly value the freedoms our countries forefathers intended to preserve…

    Dann in Ohio

  2. I know that, if this happened to me:
    1. I would not give permission for a search. And, I would refuse to say anything further until I had consulted my attorney.
    2. I would be looking real hard at seeing if I could have that department pay for my early retirement.

    We need to do more to teach government workers that they can not do whatever they want to us.

    • Patrick H says:

      Unfortunately the department won’t pay- the taxpayers will though.

      Until we eliminate qualified immunity, teaching government workers a lesson won’t happen except in the most egregious cases.

  3. Tim says:

    And… We’re done…

    The Grand Experiment that was America has fully devolved into a land-grab by those who have voting rights but are parasites on productive participants.

  4. Patrick says:

    Cops overstepped this one in the heat of the moment. I doubt they had fascist dreams, but they still overstepped.

    Setting up a roadblock and querying all who go through is fine. It happens in my area when a kid gets nabbed from a shopping center or a bank gets robbed. But it’s literally a window rolled down as you drive by and a quick chat with the nice officer as they scan everything with their eyes.

    Detaining everyone for more than an hour, restraining most of them the whole time, is several steps too far.

  5. I agree with Patrick in that this was a heat of the moment decision. But, we default to our training. This means the cops involved were not trained to respect the rights of others. They did not even consider whether it was right or wrong to just put everyone in a specific area in handcuffs. Something needs to be done about this.

    • Harold says:

      As said by the elder Volokh conspirator (with the caveat “I’m not a Fourth Amendment expert…“:

      It therefore sounds to me like the police might be facing 19 lawsuits (one in which the jury might not be that sympathetic to the plaintiff, and 18 in which they will likely be much more sympathetic), as well as one likely pretty solid suppression-of-evidence motion. I should hope that the police department and its elected superiors will also face some political blowback.

      And a commentator noted mere carry of loaded or unloaded guns in your vehicle in Colorado isn’t illegal. I wonder if that arrest in the last, 19th car was legit or just was made to make the whole fiasco look better.

  6. Rick says:

    I’m sorry officer, I would like to help you, but you do NOT have permission to search my car. I will do nothing to interfere with any actions you might take, but you do not have my permission. Now, am I free to go? No? If I’m being detained then I have to ask for my lawyer. No, sorry. Lawyer. No permission. ((smile))

  7. Jay says:

    Looks like I dodged a bullet there, I just drove through Aurora, CO on the 4th, with a loaded gun in my car, per OKCO reciprocity agreements. I did fail to rob the Wells Fargo, though.

  8. Alpheus says:

    There is at least one ray of hope: most comments (about 90%, I’d say) are about how the police are abusing their power; only a handful are saying “Good job, police, you caught the bad guy!” and “Who cares if this is a violation of rights, we got the guy!”

    Never mind that, as far as I can see from the story, the only reason they think the person is the bank robber, was because he was carrying guns. I hope this doesn’t end well for the police force involved!

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