We're suing to protect Maine's people from unreasonable warrantless arrests after a York County man was detained, arrested, and strip searched for a minor, nonviolent misdemeanor charge – all without a warrant or any public safety or flight risk. Police officers should not have the authority to arrest people for minor misdemeanors without a single justification.
On January 30, 2018, Caleb Gaul drove down his steep, icy driveway to ensure the path was clear for his wife, who was following in their van to take their three small children to school. 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 2 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.
We filed a lawsuit on Mr. Gaul’s behalf, arguing that his arrest and treatment violated the constitutional prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure and guarantee of safety and due process.
We're arguing 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 originated in York County Superior Court and is currently on appeal before the Maine Supreme Judicial 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.