A Frederick woman’s attorneys are asking a federal court to hold Frederick County responsible for her unlawful 2008 arrest.
In August 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit found that officials violated Roxana Orellana Santos’ constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure because they arrested her without probable cause. A motion for summary judgment filed on Aug. 25 aims to resolve the outstanding question of whether the county can be held liable for the illegal arrest.
Deputies arrested Santos, a native of El Salvador, in October 2008 while she ate lunch outside her workplace. They stopped her, questioned her about her immigration status and then found there was an open U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement civil deportation warrant for her.
Santos tried to hide when she saw the deputies, according to Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, which prompted the officers to ask her for identification.
The deputies arrested Santos, and she spent 37 days in jail before being released to immigration enforcement.
Last week’s motion is the latest in a legal battle going back to 2009 between Santos and the county, the sheriff and the deputies who arrested her.
Santos’ legal team argued in the filing that the county was responsible for the illegal arrest because the deputies were following policies set forth by Jenkins, a county official. His failure to provide training and guidance to the officers would have prevented the unlawful arrest, and his expressed support for the action were other areas of culpability, the attorneys added.
However, courts generally consider county sheriffs state employees, a fact the county’s attorneys have emphasized in earlier court documents.
Santos’ lawyers contend in the motion that Jenkins represented the county because he is elected by Frederick County voters. The illegal detention, they continued, was the result of county policy and not state law.
Santos’ representatives pointed to the county’s participation in the 287(g) program as evidence that official policies led to the arrest. The program is a partnership between the county and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to screen for immigration status at the jail and hold people there for the federal agency.
While Santos was not detained as part of that program, the lawyers argue that it shows that deputies act under county policy and federal law when they detain immigrants on behalf of ICE.
The program relies on federal reimbursements going through county budgets, the filing notes, which are independent of the state.
If a judge determines that Frederick County policy led to Santos spending more than a month in jail without having committed a crime, it could be on the hook for damages.
The filing does not specify the amount of money Santos is seeking, but the original 2009 suit requested a $1 million judgment. Most aspects of that suit, including a claim of racial profiling, were dismissed.
Neither attorneys for Santos nor the county returned a call for comment Friday.