The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project filed a federal lawsuit in May of 2013, on behalf of Plaintiffs Gilbert Weber and Tryone Hightower, challenging the Grand Rapids Police Department's longstanding practice of arresting innocent people for criminal trespass on commercial property without warning and without the business owner's knowledge. Even where those arrested are patronizing the business in question, police justify these illegal arrests by pointing to form letters signed by business owners months or years prior to the arrest agreeing to prosecute "trespassers."
According to the ACLU lawsuit, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in 1997 that it is unconstitutional for Grand Rapids to use such letters as a substitute for probable cause of criminal wrongdoing. Yet the practice has continued unabated. In February, the ACLU sent a letter to city officials urging them to end the practice to no avail.
The ACLU lawsuit asks the court to order an immediate halt to this unconstitutional practice and declare that the City of Grand Rapids and GRPD, through the use of general Letters of Intent, have violated Weber and Hightower's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful arrests. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.
In addition to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, Plaintiffs are also represented by Cooperating Attorney Bryan Waldman of the law firm Sinas, Dramis, Brake, Boughton & McIntyre, P.C.