On August 25, 2017, President Trump granted a Presidential pardon to Joe Arpaio, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. While the statement does not address the scope of the Presidential pardon, the context of Arpaio’s recent offense and criminal conviction is critical to inform the purpose and effect of this pardon.
Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio
In 2007, the ACLU filed a class action suit against Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in his official capacity. The suit alleged that MSCO engaged in racial profiling and arrested individuals without probable cause as to their immigration status. The ACLU stated that “the policies and practices of Arpaio and the county are discriminatory and unlawfully violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Arizona Constitution.” Read the petition.
Essentially, an warrantless arrest made without probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable seizure. An officer has probable cause when the officer has within her knowledge reasonably trustworthy facts and circumstances sufficient to warrant an objective belief that the suspect has committed or is committing a crime for which arrest is authorized law. A suspicion based on the racial appearance of an individual is not a reasonably trustworthy fact that the individual is unlawfully in the country or guilty of any other offense. MCSO routinely committed stops and arrests of individuals only based on such racial profiling, which is less that the probable cause standard required by the Constitution.