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Was It Lawful for Colorado Police to Stop and Arrest Every Adult at Intersection to Find Bank Robber?

Police in Aurora, Colorado stopped every car and handcuffed every adult at an intersection in order to find a bank robbery suspect. Police Chief Daniel Oates said, “The law is clear that investigative detentions are lawful for a reasonable period of time.” Judge Napolitano disagrees, saying, “You can only be stopped if the police can articulate, can state, some suspicion about you and that can only be for a brief period of time.”

In this specific incident, the judge says these were not stops by police but were arrests.

Napolitano concluded, “We fought wars against governments who arrested groups of people until they got their person. We don’t do that in America.”
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Judge Napolitano wrote exclusive commentary on this incident for the Fox News Insider.

The big picture here is that the police in this small Colorado town applied tactics that are forbidden by the U.S. Constitution, and which were perfected by the SS in Nazi Germany, in order to make their job easier. Nazi Germany had the lowest crime rate of any modern society; but it had no freedom. The cops and the SS regularly arrested groups until they found the person they wanted. We fought World War II in large measure to prevent such behavior by the government.

Here is the law. The government may stop a person temporarily--for a few minutes and in public--and ask questions of the person only when it has “articulable suspicion” about that person. The suspicion must be based on objective observations, not immutable characteristics (such as race or gender) or group characteristics (such as location or beliefs). The government may only arrest a person--prevent movement using restraints or force for more than a few moments--when it has probable cause to believe that the arrested person has committed a crime. The standard for arrest requires a “more likely than not” objective conclusion of criminal behavior on the part of the arrested person.

The behavior of the cops on Aurora, CO will cost the town a great deal of money; and it should provoke a federal criminal investigation of the police behavior. The Aurora police violated basic constitutionally-guaranteed rights, federal law, rights guaranteed by the Colorado Constitution, and state law.

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