The ACLU is looking for somebody with ink on his thumbs and a traffic ticket in hand who’s mad about the whole thing.
Arizona’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has started gathering legal ammo to challenge Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s new driver-fingerprinting program in court.
The program requires drivers who are pulled over for crimes such as reckless driving or excessive speeding to ink their thumbprint on a ticket or face jail. It was put in place by the sheriff in mid-October.
Since then, the ACLU’s interim local director has been quietly talking to anti-Arpaio groups, trying to find someone who’s been asked to provide a print and wants to sue.
"We have drafted a memo on the points of law that show clear constitutional and statutory violations under Joe’s new fingerprint policy," wrote director Dawn Wyland in an e-mail to an anti-Arpaio group. "We are now looking for a plaintiff so we may bring a case and stop the abuse."
Wyland said Thursday she couldn’t talk about the e-mail, details of the memo or any potential plaintiffs.
"But some people have come forward," she said.
The rest of the e-mail, which Wyland confirmed she sent late last month, also provides more detail on what kind of plaintiff the ACLU is looking for.
"The only thing is it CANNOT be for a DUI," Wyland wrote, "just a criminal traffic citation such as excessive speed or reckless driving . . . things of that nature."
The sheriff, meanwhile, said he’s unconcerned by the threat of a lawsuit from the ACLU — which has become a regular event under the sheriff’s watch.
The ACLU, he said, "sues me every time I go to the toilet."
But that’s not to say Arpaio’s office wins in court every time, either.
In August, his office lost a court battle against the ACLU when the county’s Superior Court ruled it’s illegal for Arpaio to require pregnant inmates to get a court order before receiving abortions.
Arpaio then vowed to appeal.
Despite that, the sheriff said he will continue using his ongoing battle with the civilrights group as a talking point during re-election campaigns.
"Every time they go after me," Arpaio said Thursday, "my polls go up."
Wyland said a team of ACLU lawyers will meet next week to discuss the next steps toward a lawsuit.