ACLU of Maine Seeking Protections from Unchecked Police Power at Law Court

The organization is arguing at Maine’s highest court for increased protections from unreasonable warrantless arrests following the 2018 detention, arrest, and strip-search of a York County man

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
November 8, 2023 11:00 am

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BANGOR – The ACLU of Maine will argue today at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court seeking broader protections from unreasonable warrantless arrests in Maine. Chief Counsel Zach Heiden will present arguments in Caleb Gaul v. York County et al. at 2:20PM. Listen live here.

The lawsuit argues that Article I, Section 5 of the Maine Constitution demands all warrantless misdemeanor arrests must be reasonable, a higher standard than the U.S. Supreme Court has applied under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The case stems from the 2018 detention and arrest of Caleb Gaul for a minor, nonviolent misdemeanor charge – all without a warrant or any public safety or flight risk.

Mr. Gaul began his day as normal on January 30, 2018. He drove down his steep driveway, which was covered in ice, to make sure his wife and kids could get down safely in their van. He encountered a school bus blocking their driveway. The bus driver was waiting to start the morning pick-up. When Mr. Gaul asked him to move, the bus driver refused and instead called his supervisor at the school transportation department, who called the York County Sheriff’s Office.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gaul parked his truck in front of the bus, the safest available option for the vehicle, while he went to warn his wife about the bus. As Mr. Gaul walked back down the private road, he saw an officer with his hand on his firearm telling Gaul to put his hands up and freeze. When the officer asked Mr. Gaul to move his truck, he moved it within two minutes.

Ultimately, Mr. Gaul, who used no force or intimidation, was handcuffed in front of his three young children, transported to the York County Jail in a police cruiser, strip-searched, and held for five hours before making bail – all because he temporarily parked in front of a bus at the bottom of his own private drive. Eventually, all charges against him were dropped.

“This is a case about Mainers’ right to be free from unreasonable arrests that do nothing to preserve public safety or order,” said ACLU of Maine Chief Counsel Zach Heiden. “Caleb Gaul was handcuffed in front of his wife and children on his own property, taken to a police station, strip-searched, locked in a cell, and then held until his wife could post his bail. Police officers should not have the authority to arrest people for minor misdemeanors without a single justification. Granting law enforcement this kind of unlimited and unchecked discretion only leads to unnecessary and disproportionate arrests.”

The case originated in York County Superior Court. The trial court incorrectly relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, even though this challenge was brought under the state’s constitution. The Constitution of Maine is distinct from the federal Constitution, and as a rule Maine does not rely on the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretations.

Read the brief’s and learn more about this case at ACLUMaine.org/Gaul.

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