Constitutional Law

Defendant Challenges Roadblock Roundup Based on Trace of GPS Device in Stolen Loot

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A convicted bank robber caught with the help of a GPS device implanted in stolen money is challenging the roadblock that turned up evidence against him.

Police in Aurora, Colo., arrested Christian Paetsch, a former music teacher, after police descended on an intersection, pointed their guns at 20 cars and ordered drivers to exit their vehicles with hands up, the New York Times reports. Some drivers were handcuffed as police searched for the stolen loot in an ordeal that lasted nearly two hours.

Paetsch’s lawyer, federal public defender Matthew Belcher, claims the Constitution prevents police from rounding up large groups of people at gunpoint. As a result, he says, courts should not allow the money and guns recovered from Paetsch’s SUV to be used as evidence against him.

U.S. District Judge William Martinez of Denver ruled last month that the evidence was admissible, the story says. An appeal is planned.

“The case, now winding its way through the federal court system, is being watched by Fourth Amendment lawyers and law enforcement experts,” the Times says. “While advanced technology now gives the police the power to shadow a suspect moments after a crime is committed, there are still legal questions over how wide a net the authorities can cast while in pursuit.”

Passengers from six other cars ensnared in the roadblock have hired a lawyer and are hoping to settle with the city.

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