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State supreme court considers expanding protections for warrantless arrests

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine is asking the state's supreme court to expand protections against warrantless arrests.

The ACLU argues that the state constitution requires warrantless arrests be reasonable, a greater protection than afforded under the U.S. Constitution. It also contends that the Superior Court erred when it used the U.S. Constitution to deny Caleb Gaul's legal challenge of his own arrest and search in 2018.

Gaul sued the York County Sheriff's Office and the arresting deputy in 2019, citing the state constitution. And has appealed the decision to the state supreme court, which heard arguments Wednesday in Bangor.

His attorney, Zachary Heiden of the ACLU, argues that the court must establish a test for when it is reasonable for a police officer to arrest a person over a misdemeanor, instead of just issuing a citation.

"We're suggesting that arrests need to be subject to a reasonableness analysis and that courts over time will, in applying that reasonable analysis, provide important guidance for police officers," Heiden said.

Justices questioned how an officer can be expected to make a reasonableness determination in the moment. John Wall, lawyer for the arresting deputy, says that the Maine constitutional protections are the same as those in the U.S. Constitution.

Kaitlyn Budion is Maine Public’s Bangor correspondent, joining the reporting team after several years working in print journalism.