Is there such a thing as sanctuary, legally speaking?

The arrest of Elvira Arellano has been in the news, and I heard on the radio that there is no such thing as sanctuary, that the police can go anywhere to arrest anyone.

Is this true? If so, why did they wait a year to arrest Arellano? I remember seeing one of those Shocking Video shows where police actually walked into a church, interrupted a wedding in progress, and hauled off the groom in handcuffs (he was wanted for armed robbery or something.) Or is there a legal definition of sanctuary in a place of worship?

I thought I heard somewhere that a church can be a sancturary, but only for a certain amount of time (hour(s)?) and I think all bets are off when it’s a criminal that they think is dangerous.
But this is just something I think I may have heard. OTOH, I might have made it up.

Male Answer Syndrome strikes again!

The concept of “sanctuary” in this context always sounded like cops-and-robbers law to me, like getting to the state line and crossing it made you bulletproof to the police in the state you just left.

I’ll not mention any Logan’s Run contexts, as this is GQ.

IANAL, but I’m pretty sure that the only places of sanctuary recognized by American law are diplomatic enclaves.

I believe this extract from the LA Times on this subject essentially has the right take on it:

And, to some extent, they are probably right. Sanctuary may be a legal fiction, but law enforcement is generally aware of the need for tact and restraint when dealing with places of worship. For PR reasons, if nothing else. The police are generally well aware of how it’s going to look if they storm into a church and forcibly arrest someone. Particularly if the leaders of the church are inclined to take the side of the person being arrested, and are likely to do so vocally on the evening news.

This was the speculative answer given when this whole thing started in Chicago - and it was also confirmed that there was no such thing as sanctuary here. The last thing the authorities should have wanted was footage of a church being stormed, a mother being dragged out while her crying son watched, priests attempting to intervene, etc. When it was announced that she was leaving to go to a rally, I was positive she would be arrested. I suspect that waiting until after she spoke at the rally was also another PR move - arresting her before it would have fueled more anger, more insistence that she was considered too “dangerous” to be allowed to tell her story, etc.

I think yabob got it. It’s a PR thing. Even if there is no such thing as a sanctuary any more, people don’t know that. It comes down to a judgement call. If someone is wanted for shoplifting and runs into a chuch in the middle of service, the cops can keep an eye on the suspect from a distance and deal with them when they come out. OTOH, if you rob a bank at gun point and run into a chuch, I think it’s acceptable for the police to disrupt the mass. They just have to think of wheather the public/pastor is going to say, “Geez, you could have waited 45 minutes, they weren’t putting anyone in harm” or “What the hell, the person had dynamite strapped to their chest and you were sitting in your squad cars waiting for mass to end!!!”
It’s a tough call, but it could make or break a police chief or sheriffs career if they get it right/wrong.

Do other countries consider places of worship to be sanctuaries? I’m thinking of terrorists holing up in mosques, with soldiers being loathe to bomb the building. Or is that just a sensitivity to possible civilian casualties and the outrage that would come from attacking a holy site?

And although there is no such thing as sanctuary in a place of worship here in the States, Arellano in effect had sanctuary for a year since the police wouldn’t go into the church to arrest her.

The whole matter gets complicated if the cops enter a sanctuary and their target invokes the right of parley.

I would imagine those are more guidelines than actual rules. :wink:

You obviously haven’t seen the third Pirates movie :mad:

Indira Gandhi didn’t think so.

I wonder if the Vatican still recognizes it?


You come soldierin’ down here, invadin’ our territory, claimin’ sanctuary? No permits, no parley? You think the Orphan Street Precinct ain’t with it? They write about our raids in the paper!

Is the church on the hook for harboring a fugitive?

They sheltered her for a year? As in, she lived there round the clock?

I think that even under the old concept of sanctuary, the church or representatives thereof still had to choose to grant sanctuary. Once when I was in church, there was a man who was making a scene (I don’t know the details, but it culminated in him shoving an usher to the ground), and the priest had a member of the staff call the cops. Clearly, that fellow wouldn’t have been accorded sanctuary, since the priest and most of the congregation wanted rid of him.