At least 20 people were stopped, many of them handcuffed and held at gunpoint

In a recent ruling, Judge William Martinez of the U.S. District Court found that the wholesale stops of at least 20 Aurora, Colorado, residents at an intersection were justified.  The judge reasoned that the Aurora police officers were “reasonable to err on the side of caution and assume the robber could be any of the stopped adults.”

The GPS Device Was “Likely” in One of the Vehicles

The judge based this on the fact that the police officers knew, because of a GPS placed in the stolen bank money, that the robber was headed to that particular intersection where the stops occurred.  However, the officers didn’t know exactly which vehicle.  Note: GPS devices don’t point to specific vehicles, so the police couldn’t identify a particular vehicle, nor did they have a physical description, all of which led to the mass stopping of people who happened to be driving through the concerned intersection.

The Safety of Citizens Was Jeopardized

Because of the imprecise nature of GPS technology, a number of people had to be inconvenienced, and their safety jeopardized, while the police conducted a wholesale search.  In other words, the judge rationalized the robbery of the innocent citizens’ constitutional right to be free from illegal seizure and detention.

GPS Technology Needs to Be More Exact

Before a judge can make a finding that a citizen can be detained on the basis of electronic signals, those signals need to be precise as to their source.

Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence

The core of Fourth Amendment law on stopping people and detaining them (especially at gunpoint) is based on specific, articulable facts that support seizing a citizen.  To use a broad example, if an officer knew that a suspect had red hair, the Fourth Amendment would permit stopping persons with red hair.  The Fourth Amendment, however, does not permit stopping any citizen who happens to be passing through an area because law enforcement believes a suspect is in that group of travelers.

The ruling by Judge Martinez is one based in law enforcement convenience and not constitutional fairness.

Shaun Kaufman Law is always ready to advocate for citizens’ constitutional rights in criminal courts across Colorado. Denver Defense Attorney Shaun Kaufman has written and argued over 75 motions to suppress Fourth Amendment stops in Colorado county, state and U.S. District Courts. Contact Shaun Kaufman 24/7 at 303-309-0430.