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Judge rules Frederick County is liable to pay damages in civil rights suit

The Baltimore Sun

A federal judge ruled Sept. 27 that Frederick County is liable to pay damages in the civil rights lawsuit brought by a Salvadoran woman who the courts found was wrongfully profiled, detained and arrested in 2008 while sitting on a curb eating a sandwich.

Roxana Orellana Santos filed the lawsuit in 2009, alleging that Frederick County and its sheriff’s deputies who arrested her had violated her rights by subjecting her to unreasonable searches and seizures.

According to court documents, the deputies approached Santos while she ate outside her place of work and asked to see identification. She gave them an identification card from El Salvador, and the deputies arrested her on an outstanding immigration warrant related to her failing to show up to court after having been detained after crossing into the country years before, court records state.

Santos lost the suit in District Court but won in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which ruled that local and state authorities cannot arrest or detain someone simply on the suspicion that they are in the country illegally, and that Santos could sue the county, but not the individual deputies.

Last week, a judge ruled the county was liable for the policy that permitted deputies to detain people suspected of violating immigration law and that Santos can move forward with seeking damages.

Santos’ attorney Jose Perez could not immediately be reached for comment.

A representative of the Frederick County Sheriff’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday, saying that the ruling was still being reviewed by attorneys.

lireed@baltsun.com

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Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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