ACLU Sues Minnesota Sheriff Who Refused To Accept Hispanic Man’s Bail

Nobles County, Minnesota’s sheriff, Kent Wilkening and his staff, are being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for the unconstitutional detention of Jose Lopez Orellana. The sheriff’s department refused his wife’s attempt to pay his bail for a DWI arrest in November of 2014 because of his immigration status.

The ACLU argues that Nobles County denied Jose’s constitutional right to post a bail, set by a Minnesota court and held him unlawfully for an additional 10 days on the basis of an immigration detainer after his 2014 arrest.

Lopez Orellana was arrested for DWI and booked into the Nobles County jail on Nov. 9, 2014. After a judge set his bail, his wife attempted to post bail for him Nov. 21, 2014 and she was rejected. The county informed her that they would not accept her money because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had asked the Nobles County Jail to hold Lopez Orellana.

While that may sound like a good thing to do and it is common for ICE to request such holds while they investigate a person’s immigration status, these requests are not based on probable cause. These types of holds are requested to give ICE time to decide if there is any probable cause to hold the person in question. It is unconstitutional to hold anyone in America without probable cause.

It would be 10 more days before Jose was brought before a judge, where he pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and was then allowed to leave the jail. According to Jose:

I made a mistake and was held accountable for it. However, I was kept in jail past when I should have been, and I missed out on Thanksgiving with my family and spending time with my recently born child. Spending the holiday alone in jail was unnecessary and unjust.

The ACLU agrees that it is not just unjust, but unlawful and unconstitutional. They argue that Jose’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when Sheriff Wilkening and his staff refused to allow him to pay bail.

The lawsuit that ACLU filed asks the court to order the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office to stop honoring ICE detainers. They are also suing for damages, attorney’s fees and costs that resulted from Jose’s unlawful detention.

It is disturbing that such a thing is happening in the USA. That a person can be imprisoned even after a judge grants them bail. That such imprisonment is without probable cause and that it is commonplace? That is criminal.

Feature image via Nobles County Law Enforcement website

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