Oct 17, 2013 7:44 PM by Allison Bourne-Vanneck
The Louisiana Supreme Court has struck down a state law that forced drivers to prove their citizenship or face a felony charge. The case started in Lafayette Parish after three people who were arrested challenged the law. They were arrested for driving without proper documentation, which was a felony and punishable by up to one year in jail.
The Louisiana Supreme Court decided that only the Federal government can enforce immigration laws. Therefore, the state can't penalize a person or driver for not carrying proof of their citizenship.
"Federal law trumps Louisiana law in this matter," Lafayette Parish Assistant Public Defender Chad Ikred said. "No matter how well intentioned or good-natured Louisiana's law is supposed to be, the federal law is what trumps here."
He made that argument at the Louisiana Supreme Court while representing clients who had been driving and were arrested for not carrying proof of their immigration status. The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
"People driving, trying to get to work, trying to put food on their table that kind of a thing, they're not going to be taken away from their families for a year for this crime," Ikred said. "If they commit some other crime just like you or I, they're subject to the penalties and ramifications of their actions. For simply trying to drive and exist in Louisiana, they no longer can be held in jail for up to a year."
Fifteenth Judicial District Court District Attorney Mike Harson says he doesn't plan to appeal the Louisiana Supreme Court's decision.
"I didn't necessarily see where it was inconsistent with the federal rules, but apparently the court sees it differently, so we're bound by those decisions," Harson said.
A KATC investigation found that, in the last five years, about 300 people were arrested in Lafayette Parish for driving without proof of their immigration status. Additionally, out of the arrests which listed the person's ethnicity, all but one was hispanic and nearly half of the arrests were made after involvement in a vehicle accident.