|Lindsay Beyerstein Sunday August 31, 2008 9:55 am|| |
The 6 activists arrested during police raids in advance of the Republican National Convention are being held without charge by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, the Minnesota Independent reports.
The arrestees are being held on probable cause holds. These holds give the authorities 36 hours to charge them or let them go. Holds are typically used to give investigators more time to gather evidence before filing formal charges.
Holds allow police to charge first and ask questions later. Sometimes that's a good thing. Arrest opportunities are unpredictable. A suspect could slip away in the time it takes to turn a solid suspicion into sufficient evidence to file charges. A probable cause hold buys the police some time to dot the i's and cross the t's.
However, it doesn't take a genius to see how the power to detain people without charge can be abused. For example, unethical police officers have been known to use frivolous holds as quickie jail terms. Piss off the police, spend 3 days in jail—no trial required.
In Minnesota, a probable cause hold can be issued by an officer without review by a judge or a prosecutor. The 36-hour window doesn't include weekends and holidays. So the protesters arrested over the long weekend could be locked up until Wednesday.
The National Lawyers Guild is asking a judge to review these detentions in the hopes of getting the arrestees out sooner.
Imagine if the police could hold these protesters as long as they wanted.
The United States is holding suspects without charge at Guantanamo—many of whom were apprehended without anything approaching probable cause. Of course, Bush administration asserts the right to put off their trials forever.
Scenarios like these illustrate why habeas corpus is vital to the rule of law.