ACLU sues Ashland over police procedures

| Apr 19, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Police procedures are receiving intense scrutiny all across the country. The American Civil Liberties Union has taken the protests one step further by suing the city of Ashland, Oregon, in an effort to force the city to change its police procedures.

The Sancho arrest

The case began in 2019 when the city police force arrested former Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Tony Sancho. According to the complaint filed by the ACLU in the current lawsuit, Sancho left a bar in downtown Ashland in a visibly intoxicated condition. He intended to walk the few block to his home. Police officers stopped Sancho and talked to him for some time. The officers then arrested Sancho and booked him into the Jackson County Jail. Sancho was charged with resisting arrest, but the prosecutor declined to prosecute the case. Sancho was released, and the charge of resisting arrest was dropped.

Sancho sues city over treatment in jail

In July of 2020, Sancho sued the Jackson County Sheriff alleging that he was the victim of excessive force while incarcerated in the county jail. Sancho’s attorney released a video of sheriff’s deputies handcuffing him to the urine grate in his cell.

ACLU intervention

The ACLU approached the city about negotiating a solution to Sancho’s grievances. The organization cited an Oregon law that prohibits cities from adopting or enforcing regulations against public intoxication (laws governing drunk driving are a significant exception), disorderly conduct and similar actions. The city refused to negotiate, and the ACLU then filed the recent lawsuit alleging that the city’s actions in arresting and retaining Sancho violated the state constitution.

What happens now?

The ACLU lawsuit essentially claims that the city had no legal right to arrest Sancho on grounds of drunken conduct. The case is in its earliest days, and the defendants have not answered the allegations of the complaint. Much will depend upon the judge, who will have the power to decide all motions, including the ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction. If the ACLU prevails, or if the city agrees to negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement, criminal procedure over the entire state will be significantly modified. Anyone who is facing pending criminal charges may wish to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney for advice on how any changes to police procedures may change.