Last week, all the news circled once again around a Waco, Texas law enforcement situation. Twin Peaks restaurant was apparently hosting a “biker” day, and several motorcycle clubs were in town for a meeting of a council of clubs. One Dallas lawyer said the meeting revolved around legislative issues dealing with motorcycles. However, the local police were suspicious because some groups are labeled as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Texas law enforcement, and police thought the situation was ripe for explosion. One motorcycle club reportedly showed up uninvited, and a fight broke out in the parking lot. We don’t know what exactly happened, but when the shooting stopped, nine bikers were dead. Police then arrested approximately 170 bikers alleging probable cause that they conspired to commit capital murder. A judge has held each on $1 million bonds, which normally requires raising at least $100,000 in cash or other security.
Probable cause for arrest is a low standard, and is what officers must establish to make roadside arrest or to obtain a search warrant for a house or make a warrantless search of an automobile or other property. Stated most simply, probable cause is some reliable evidence to believe that a crime has been committed, and that a specific person committed it. Probable cause must be individual to each person arrested. The big question is, “how did police have individualized probable cause for each biker arrested in Waco?”