Stand Your Ground Returns to Ohio Statehouse

A new Stand Your Ground bill has made its way to Ohio’s legislature. The proposed bill would allow gun owners to use deadly force while relieving them of the duty to retreat before resorting to deadly force. Senate Bill 180 was introduced earlier this week along with a companion bill that would expand what is often referred to as the Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine allows people to act in self-defense when in their homes, cars, or a relative’s car without the duty to retreat. The proposed legislation would expand the Castle Doctrine’s right to use deadly force without the retreating requirement to anywhere a person has a legal right to be, like a sidewalk or parking lot.

The authors of the bills also want to shift the burden of proof in self-defense cases from the defense to prosecutors. Currently, criminal defendants must prove they acted in self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence, a less exacting standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. Supporters of the bill point out that Ohio is the only state in which people must prove they acted in self-defense when deadly force is used.

Republican lawmakers passed an extensive “pro-gun” piece of legislation in 2013 that originally contained stand-your ground language. However, the Senate removed that language after overwhelming opposition from prosecutors and the Fraternal Order of Police. Both the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney’s Association and FOP of Ohio object to the current bill as well. The executive director of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Association says there is no evidence that prosecutors are improperly handing charges against people who claim they acted in self-defense and the current laws are serving the public well. The government affairs director for FOP stated that “even officers have a duty to de-escalate the situation” before resorting to deadly force.

Stand Your Ground legislation gained national attention after the 2012 death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmerman who asserted the stand your ground defense. Zimmerman was acting in an unofficial capacity and against police advice when he approached Martin who he believed was “up to no good.” The facts of the altercation between Martin and Zimmerman have been widely disputed, but Zimmerman claimed he shot Martin after a struggle for Zimmerman’s gun. It is not disputed that the entire situation would have been avoided if Zimmerman had followed police advice and had not instigated the fight with the unarmed teen. Florida’s stand your ground law, passed in 2005, permits the use of deadly force whenever an individual reasonably believes great bodily harm is imminent. The Florida law imposes no duty to attempt to retreat before using deadly force and does not consider whether the defendant initiated the confrontation.

concealed carry of a personal weaponThe Stand Your Ground Bill will most likely have difficulty becoming law in Ohio, because it is facing continued opposition from the FOP and prosecutors. In fact, some experts have argued that the bill is a “license to kill” for individuals armed with a deadly weapon. For example, if Individual A is armed with a weapon and gets into a confrontation with Individual B who is similarly armed, Individual A may legally use deadly force against Individual B. Should Individual A actually kill Individual B during the confrontation, absent credible witnesses, the death of Individual B would almost always result in an acquittal, because prosecutors could never prove that A was not in fear for his life as B was also armed with a deadly weapon. Usually Ohio Republicans, the FOP, and County Prosecutors agree on legislative matters. But here, it appears a fight is brewing which will be interesting to observe.

 

If you need a lawyer for a criminal State or Federal case but particularly issues regarding gun rights, relief from weapon disability or seeking the return of weapons/property seized; call Attorney W. Joseph Edwards (614-309-0243) who has over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters.

 

Dark Web Busts: Government Entrapment or a Brilliant Sting?

The recent takedown of dark web drug markets AlphaBay and Hansa have raised questions about the tactics of law enforcement and, specifically, whether some Hansa users were “entrapped” after the July 3rd closure of AlphaBay by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Before answering the question, the facts surrounding law enforcement’s investigation must be examined.

Internet and Cyber Crime Charges Defense Attorney in Columbus, OhioAlphaBay and Hansa are dark web sites only accessible through browsers like Tor, which scramble the location of users and site operators, making it all but impossible for the authorities to identify the whereabouts of the servers hosting a specific site. Users pay for goods with virtual currencies like Bitcoin, which cannot be easily tracked by financial institutions or law enforcement. AlphaBay and Hansa operated much like eBay; in that, hosting vendors would sell their wares, usually drugs, and pay a commission to the site on each purchase. As such, the sites were functioning in June 2017 as worldwide digital drug trafficking enterprises but with anonymity features that included encryption of message and public “PGP keys.” The transactions were safe, anonymous and invisible to law enforcement.

How big was AlphaBay? In 2 years of operation, it logged more than $1 billion in transactions and hosted 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors with 250 places to buy heroin

But that all began to unravel on June 20 when the Dutch National Police covertly took control of Hansa by seizing several servers in Europe. This action allowed real time surveillance of criminal activities and the ability to log transactions including the identification of buyers and sellers.

While the Dutch were monitoring Hansa, the DOJ, on July 4th, shut down AlphaBay and arrested the site’s founder, Alexandre Cazes, in Bangkok. Cazes committed suicide in his jail cell shortly after his arrest.

With AlphaBay closed, law enforcement took the unprecedented step of luring its former users to Hansa via forums on Reddit. Hansa had an eight times increase in new users immediately following the closure of its competitor AlphaBay. The problem, of course, is simple: the users who were on Hansa after its covert takeover by the Dutch Police could very well face prosecutions once the intercepted transactions are turned over to local law enforcement.

Did law enforcement entrap users on Hansa by allowing transactions to continue after the site was taken over, and second, luring them to the site through Reddit forums?

Entrapment is a complete defense to a criminal charge on the theory that “Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.” A valid entrapment defense has two related elements; government inducement of the crime and the defendant’s lack of predisposition to engage in the criminal conduct. When analyzing the legal case against Hansa users, two important points exist. First, law enforcement is authorized to monitor illegal transactions during drug investigations. This occurs in every case. Law enforcement had no duty to shut down Hansa before the investigations were complete. Hansa users should never have assumed the completion of transactions meant the site was uncompromised.

Second, Hansa users were on the site to engage in illegal drug transactions. The reason users were on Reddit forums was to find out why AlphaBay was closed and to find other sites, like Hansa, to continue their drug activity. Therefore, federal prosecutors would most likely argue there were no innocent users on Hansa. Each person on the site had a “predisposition” to commit an illegal drug transaction.

However, besides entrapment, Hansa users would have many better defenses than entrapment. For example, in most instances, no drugs or monies were intercepted. As such, trying to show a particular user was part of an illegal dark web transaction would have been done through data obtained from the seized Hansa servers – servers that are located in other countries. Numerous evidentiary issues would exist to admit seized data from oversea servers assuming the seizures were lawful. A question exists as to whether the interception of data on Hansa violated the Fourth Amendment’s restraint on unreasonable search and seizures? Did law enforcement in Europe acquire search warrants before seizing the servers and did their actions conform to American law? Are prosecutors in the U.S. willing to bring law enforcement officials to the U.S. to testify regarding how the Hansa servers were compromised? At this time, no information exists as to the method utilized by Dutch Police to access the Hansa servers. However, tech experts believe many Hansa users were too willing to rely on the “auto encrypt” feature on the market. By modifying the source code of the auto encrypt, law enforcement could have intercepted transactional information before encryption.

Because of these facts, Prosecutions of drug activity on the Hansa servers are much different from a normal drug prosecution and it remains to be seen to what extent the Government will pursue those cases.

 

 

If you need a lawyer for a criminal State of Ohio or Federal case, call Attorney W. Joseph Edwards (614-309-0243) who has over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters.

Department of Justice to Issue New Directive on Forfeitures

 

Attorney General Jeff Session announced on Monday that the Department of Justice planned to announce a new directive later this week designed to increase police seizure of assets. Sessions said the new directive would be aimed primarily at drug traffickers but that no criminal should be allowed to benefit from their criminal activity.

There is little dispute among law enforcement agencies, legislators, and even advocates for criminal justice reform that criminals should not be allowed to keep the proceeds from their wrongdoing. However, in many cases, assets are seized without ever bringing criminal charges against the individual or without ever getting a conviction. Forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level allow assets to be seized when there is merely a suspicion of wrongdoing by the individual in question. In many states, law enforcement agencies are permitted to keep the money that they seized.

Critics say the forfeiture laws in place are rife with potential for abuse and point out that law enforcement agencies have a profit motive for seizing assets. In 2015, under Eric Holder, the Justice Department issued a memo limiting a practice known as adoptive forfeitures that allowed local police to share part of their forfeiture profits with federal authorities. The practice of adoptive forfeiture allowed states to sidestep more restrictive state law to process forfeiture cases under the more lenient federal laws. Criminal justice reform advocates believed this signaled a shift towards more restrictive forfeiture practices at the federal level. However, in his speech Monday, Sessions suggested adoptive forfeitures were an area for potential expansions.

The new policies may actually be a departure from the current trend at the state level towards more restrictive forfeiture laws. Thirteen states now require a criminal conviction before assets can be permanently seized. In January, Governor Kasich signed into law a bill that required a criminal conviction before an individual’s assets can be permanently seized in a civil forfeiture case. The new law also increased the burden of proof and shifted the burden to the state in civil forfeiture cases.

 

If you need a lawyer for a criminal State or Federal case, call Attorney W. Joseph Edwards (614-309-0243) who has over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters.

Law Banning Sex Offenders from Facebook is Unconstitutional

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled a North Carolina law banning registered sex offenders from using Facebook was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. The man at the center of the case was convicted in 2002 at the age of 21 of a sex-offense involving a 13 year-old girl. Under North Carolina law, he was automatically registered as a sex offender. In 2010, he posted on Facebook to celebrate winning a traffic court dispute. The post read “How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? No fine, no court costs, nothing spent…Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks JESUS!” A police officer saw the statement and arrested him for violating the law in question which makes it a felony for any registered sex offender to access “commercial social-networking sites.” The law has been used to prosecute over 1,000 individuals.

The Court, minus Justice Gorsuch who did not join Court in time to participate, unanimously ruled against the statute. While the eight Justices varied slightly in their reasoning, the Court found that one of the fundamental First Amendment principles that everyone has access to places where they can both speak and listen. The Court recognized that in today’s world the internet and most importantly, social media sites, are important avenues of communication that provide people with “relatively unlimited, low cost capacity for communications of all kinds. The North Carolina law was so broadly written that it prohibited the use of almost any internet site by registered sex offenders.

While three of the eight justices voiced concerns about equating the internet with public streets and parks, they did agree that denying an entire group of people access to the internet was contrary to the principles of the First Amendment. However, the Court did suggest that a more narrowly-tailored law designed to prevent sex-offenders from interacting with minors online may pass constitutional muster. In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy recognized that the internet is a new frontier that is bringing with it new and unique challenges stating, “While we now may be coming to the realization that the cyber age is a revolution of epic proportions, we cannot appreciate yet its full dimensions and vast potential to alter how we thing, express ourselves and define who we want to be.”

If you need a lawyer for a criminal State or Federal case, call Attorney Joe Edwards (614-309-0243) who has over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters.

The Tiger Woods D.U.I. Case: Analysis Under Ohio Law

Golfing and drunk driving charges - the 19th holeDuring the early morning hours of Memorial Day, Tiger Woods was arrested near his Florida home for D.U.I.. Police found Woods asleep behind the wheel of his badly damaged Mercedes, with engine running, but parked along the roadside. Woods was awakened by the police and exhibited slurred speech while stating he was coming from California and didn’t know where he was according to the police report. Woods took a breathalyzer test which registered 0.00 and a urine test with as of yet unknown results. Later that day, Woods issued a statement that alcohol was not involved but rather he had an “unexpected reaction to prescription medications.”

So how would Ohio law deal with the Tiger Woods case? To answer that question, a few issues must be analyzed? First, the name of the charge, i.e., D.U.I. (Driving Under the Influence) has no significance. D.U.I., D.W.I. (Driving While Intoxicated), or O.V.I. (Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated) are all the same offense in Ohio and explained in § 4511.19 of the Ohio Revised Code. Those accused of D.U.I. are all charged under §4511.19 and the acronym assigned to the charge is unrelated to the facts or penalty.

The second issue is whether Tiger Woods was “operating” a vehicle under Ohio law when his car was parked but with the engine running? Ohio law broadly defines “operating” and many courts have held a person sitting in a parked car with the engine running is operation. However, R.C. §4511.01 (HHH), requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the person charged with D.U.I. drove the vehicle while impaired or under the influence. Sitting or sleeping in a car, even with the engine running, may not be sufficient to prove the charged person operated the vehicle while impaired.

The last issue is whether taking prescription drugs resulting in a driver’s impairment can give rise in an Ohio D.U.I. charge? The answer is YES. R.C. § 4511.19 states “no personal shall operate any vehicle…at the time of operation…the person is under the influence of alcohol a drug of abuse, or a combination of them.” Since drugs like Percocet, Valium, and Oxycodone are drugs of abuse, the presence of these drugs in one’s blood or urine along with signs of impairment can result in a D.U.I. charge and conviction. Therefore, Tiger Woods could be convicted under Ohio law even if his impairment was the result of pain medication prescribed to him by a doctor due to back surgery. This is consistent with the law that, in Ohio, D.U.I. is a strict liability offense; meaning if a person became impaired from taking medication then the responsibility is upon them not to operate a motor vehicle. However, a person can only be convicted of a crime in Ohio if they commit a voluntary act. For example, if a driver becomes impaired because someone drugged his drink then the law would not hold him criminally responsible. Can Tiger Woods and his lawyers develop a theory of defense that his impairment was involuntary; meaning, he was unaware the drugs he took and the combination thereof would result in his “adverse reaction.” In similar cases, the defense has called a toxicologist who testifies that the impairment was drug induced but not one readily known to the person charged with the offense.  If this can be done, then the prosecution may have a difficult time convicting Tiger of a D.U.I. offense.

If you need a lawyer for a D.U.I.  case, call Attorney W. Joseph Edwards (614-309-0243) who has over 25 years experience representing clients in legal matters.

 

Obstruction of Justice and The White House

Legal Investigations and PoliticsCurrently, there appears to be two separate legal investigations happening at the White House. The first investigation is attempting to discover whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election. The second legal investigation involves the actions of Trump and his staff after he was elected President and is attempting to discover whether Trump’s firing of then FBI Director James Comey was actually an attempt to stop the investigation into possible collusion.  Although it has received somewhat less attention, obstruction of justice is actually a very serious accusation. Two former presidents have been impeached or forced to resign from the office for the offense. In 1974, Richard Nixon was forced to resign after his attempts to hinder the Watergate investigations, and more recently, Bill Clinton was impeached by the House after lying to a grand jury about a sexual relationship with a White House employee. As is often the case, attempts to cover up possible wrong doings can lead to more serious consequences than the actual crime alleged to have been committed.

Obstruction of justice covers a broad set of actions all of which are intended to impede an official investigation. Those actions are criminalized by Federal Law in multiple sections of Title 18, all of which have some variation language making it a crime for someone to corruptly obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding. While the catchall language is broad, specific actions like killing a witness, lying to investigators or destroying evidence is also contained within the statutes.

The questions currently be investigated are whether President Trump’s asking former director Comey to stop the investigation and then by later firing him be a criminal act covered by obstruction of justice statutes. Because the statute covers such a broad range of actions, the power disparity in the relationship  between President Trump and Comey could elevate the request to terminate the Russia investigation to a crime. Could President Trump’s firing of Comey constitute obstruction of justice even though the President had the legal authority to fire him? The answer to that question is also yes. Courts have routinely ruled that otherwise permissible acts can constitute obstruction of justice if they are done with nefarious intentions. For example, a federal appeals case from 1998 held that a lawyer who had filed legal complaints and motions against a government agent who was investigating an illegal gambling operation was properly convicted of obstructing justice. The Court ruled that the lawyer’s “nominally litigious related conduct” was unlawful solely because his real intent was “to safeguard his personal financial interest” in the illegal gambling operation.

Obstruction of justice cases can be difficult to prove, because they often hinge on whether prosecutors can prove the defendant’s state of mind at the time when the committed the act. It is not enough to merely show the accused knew the act would hinder an investigation, but rather, prosecutors must prove impeding the investigation was the specific purpose of the act. A person’s state of mind can obviously be a very difficult thing to prove. Interestingly, the underlying investigation that triggered an investigation charge does not have to result in criminal activity being uncovered for an individual to be guilty of obstruction of justice. Thus, President Trump could be found guilty of obstructing justice even if no evidence of collusion with Russia is found.

 

 

 

If you need a lawyer for a criminal State or Federal case, call Attorney W. Joseph Edwards (614-309-0243) who has over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters.

 

The Courtroom and Artificial Intelligence in Judicial Decision Making

Artificial Intelligence in Judicial Decision Making

Artificial Intelligence in the courtroom and your Columbus, Ohio Criminal Defense AttorneyWhen Chief Justice John Roberts visited Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in April, he was asked what seemed like a question straight from the realm of science fiction by the Institute’s president. The college president asked if he could foresee a day when machines driven by artificial intelligence will assist with judicial decision making. The Chief Justice replied that he did not need to imagine a time when artificial intelligence was used in judicial decision making; it’s already here.

Sentenced to Prison Based on a Private Company’s Software

The Chief Justice may have been thinking about a case of a Wisconsin man, Eric Loomis, who was sentenced to six years in prison based on a private company’s software program when he answered the president’s question. Mr. Loomis is now arguing his due process rights were violated when the judge used the report generated by the software’s proprietary algorithm which Mr. Loomis was not able to inspect or challenge. In a sign that the justices were interested in the issues presented by Mr. Loomis’ case, they requested the federal government file a friend of the  court brief to offer its view on whether the court should hear his appeal.

The report was generated by a product called Compass, and the report included a series of charts that assessed the risk of recidivism. In other words, how likely Mr. Loomis was to go on to commit additional crimes. The report and the judge both determined that Mr. Loomis had a high risk for recidivism. During sentencing the judge stated, “you’re identified, through the Compass assessment, as an individual who is a high risk to the community.” The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against Mr. Loomis holding he would have gotten the same sentence using the usual factors. However, the Court did seem to express concern about the use of a secret algorithm to sentence an individual to prison.

In a dissenting opinion, one justice expressed concerns about how the algorithm may treat race as a factor in sentencing. She cited a study by ProPublica on the software’s use in Broward County, Florida that found black defendants “were far more likely than white defendants to be incorrectly judged to be at a higher risk of recidivism.” While the use of race in sentencing is not a new concept, the software’s secrecy raises a new concern, because the proprietary software does not explain how race is used to as a factor or how significant a weight it is given by the algorithm.

 

Columbus, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney

If you need an Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney and Federal Defense Lawyer, call Attorney W. Joseph Edwards 614-309-0243. Over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters.

Viewers Beware: Can Watching a Crime on the Internet Get You in Trouble?

Earlier this week, Chicago police arrested two suspects in the brutal sexual assault of a 15 year-old girl. The attack was recorded by one of the perpetrators who live streamed it on Facebook where it was viewed by about 40 people. The victim knew at least one of her attackers and was lured to a house where she was not allowed to leave. A teenager from the victim’s neighborhood alerted a family member after seeing the video on Facebook. The relative took screenshots of the attack to the mother which she later took to police. While videos like the one involved in this case make it easier for law enforcement to solve crimes and punish the perpetrators, their presence on social media can add extra trauma to victims.

Viewing crimes on the internetPolice say they have seen several criminal acts broadcast on social media in the last few months and they are growing increasingly frustrated by the number of individuals who watch the crimes being broadcast and do not call 911. Community activists in Chicago agree and wish there was a way to punish viewers. One such community activist said he hopes those who viewed the gang rape of the young woman and did not report it are criminally charged.

However, legal experts say charging viewers criminally for not calling authorities would be extremely difficult. Ordinary citizens do not have a duty to report a crime or to act to stop the commission of a crime, even if they witness it in person. There are some exceptions to the general rule though. For example, many states require people in certain professions to report suspicions of child abuse and some other crimes. Prosecutors would have to prove a viewer charged with a crime had a duty to report the crime that was recognized by the law, which is impossible in most instances.

Witnessing a crime on social media poses even more difficulty for law enforcement than witnessing a crime in person. Law enforcement would have to prove the individual who owned the account was the one who actually viewed the crime. Additionally, prosecutors would have to prove that the person who viewed the crime knew the act they were witnessing was real and a crime. With the ease and prevalence of  programs like photoshop, many experts agree the public should be skeptical about what they view on the internet, which makes the job of law enforcement more difficult when attempting to prove the viewer knew what they were witnessing was real.

Legal experts think that in this case, a federal statute might actually make the job of prosecuting viewers easier for law enforcement. Because the victim in this case was 15 years old, the federal statute governing child pornography could be used to criminally charge viewers. Under federal law, an individual who possesses any images of the crime are guilty of possessing child pornography and just watching the video is grounds for culpability. Those who “like” or share the video could be charged with aiding the criminal act or distributing child pornography. In fact, the two suspects in this case were charged with manufacturing and distributing child pornography in addition to a host of other criminal charges.

 

If you need a lawyer for a criminal State or Federal case, call Attorney W. Joseph Edwards (614-309-0243) who has over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters.

 

 

Cocaine Purity: Not an Issue When Determining Felony Level of Cocaine Charges

cocaine purity testing and Ohio drug charges sentencing for cocaine chargesOnly two months after ruling that prosecutors must prove the actual amount of cocaine in a substance, without fillers, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed its decision. In its original decision, the Court held that the definition of cocaine according to Ohio law did not include any substance used as fillers. Thus, when law enforcement is determining the weight of a cocaine in order to assess cocaine charges, they must only use the weight of the pure cocaine found in any given substance.
The problem with the original decision is twofold.

Ohio Crime Labs

First, Ohio crime labs do not have the sophisticated and costly equipment necessary to determine the exact weight of pure cocaine. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office said sending the cocaine to labs out of the state of Ohio would be expensive.

Cocaine Charges and Degree of Offense

Second, the degree of the offense is determined by the weight of the substance. For example, possession of any amount of cocaine less than 5 grams is a fifth degree felony and punishable by no more than a year in prison. Possession of any amount of cocaine exceeding 100 grams is punishable as a felony of the first degree and the offender is designated a major drug offender requiring the court to impose a mandatory maximum prison term. The problem for law enforcement is that, when only the pure cocaine in a substance is weighed, it is unlikely that most possession offenses would rise above a felony of the fifth degree. The narrow holding of the count would prevent major drug offenders from being punished more harshly.

The Court attempted to rectify the problems created by its first holding by turning to the language of the statute as a whole as well as the legislative history surrounding the statute. The statute’s definition of cocaine clearly encompasses the whole substance including any filler or material used in preparation. The statute does not include any language to suggest only pure cocaine may be weighed to determine the amount involved in the offense. The Court also looked to the nature of the drug itself suggesting it was rare for pure powdered cocaine to be sold.

Instead, the Court explained that cocaine powder is often combined or “cut” with one or more or more substances before sale which dilutes the purity. The entire substance is then consumed by the user. This practice was known at the time the statute was written suggesting the authors of the statute were not concerned with how much actual cocaine was found in any given substance. If they had been interested in determining only the amount of pure cocaine in the substance, they would have expressly called for such in the language of the statute itself. While the Court felt that the language in the statute was clear, they also pointed to the legislative history and the circumstances under which the statue was created to further explain their holding. They found the legislative history never mentioned purity of the drug but rather that punishment should be rendered “regardless of the form of cocaine involved.”

 

 

If you need a lawyer for Federal Drug Charges or Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney or Immigration case, call Attorney W. Joseph Edwards 614-309-0243 who has over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters.

 

The Battle Over Sanctuary Cities and Immigration Enforcement

Immigration Enforcement

Late last month, President Trump issued an executive order to support immigration enforcement by punishing local governments that do not comply with federal authorities. In these so-called “sanctuary cities,” local officials have refused to detain or hand over illegal immigrants for removal. President Trump’s executive order has led to questions over the process of deportation and how a sanctuary city can interfere with that process.

Immigration Enforcement and Sanctuary CitiesAs it currently stands, federal law does not require local authorities to detain illegal immigrants solely based on the fact that they are not in the country legally. Federal courts across the country have held that complying with a federal counterparts request to detain an individual is voluntary. President Trump’s executive order directs federal immigration agents to target a much broader group of illegal immigrants for removal. Prior to the order, an individual had to be convicted of a crime to trigger the crime based grounds for removal. The order signed by President Trump calls for the removal of any individuals who “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense or pose a risk to public safety in the judgment of an immigration officer.” The problem with this directive is that federal agents rely on local police to enforce detention policy. This is where sanctuary cities factor into the equation.

Jails are typically run by counties, and local law enforcement are usually the first point of contact in the removal process. Therefore, local policies governing the detention of illegal immigrants can often matter more to these individuals than the federal policy. In sanctuary cities, local law enforcement officials choose not to detain or trigger the deportation process for any illegal immigrant they come in contact with for various reasons. Police and politicians in sanctuary cities say they don’t want to deter anyone from coming to them for help or to report a crime. If a person can be deported for providing the police with information, they may be unwilling to come forward and provide information that can be extremely valuable to police officers when solving crimes. Thus, sanctuary cities are not necessarily designed as a political statement but can be a legitimate response to the concerns of law enforcement and local officials.

Recently, however, the creation of sanctuary cities has been very political. Columbus’  Mayor, Andrew Ginther, signed an executive order directing local officials to abstain from using local resources to enforce efforts to detain and deport undocumented immigrants in support of Columbus’ large refugee community. Ginther, who is a democrat, took issue with President Trump’s mandates concerning immigration enforcement. The mayor’s action prompted a swift response from Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel who publicly backed a proposed state law to not only ban sanctuary cities in Ohio but also hold city officials criminally and civilly liable for crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

 

 

If you need a Criminal Lawyer or Immigration Attorney, call Attorney W. Joseph Edwards 614-309-0243 who has over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters. You can also follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/edwardsimmigrationlaw/