Sheriff Can't Detain Suspected Illegal Aliens
(CN)- Sheriff Joe Arpaio may not detain suspects based solely on a belief that they are in the country illegally, the 9th Circuit ruled.
The federal appeals panel in San Francisco late Tuesday upheld a preliminary injunction in a class action over the sheriff's alleged pattern of racial profiling. Other issues in the action went to trial in Phoenix in late July.
Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, David and Jessica Rodriguez, Manuel Nieto Jr., Velia Meraz and the organization Somos America sued Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's office over three traffic stops during a 2006 anti-illegal immigration sweep. The plaintiffs claimed in a 2007 complaint that they were racially profiled as Latinos and illegally singled out for arrest.
U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow issued the preliminary injunction in 2011, prohibiting deputies from "detaining any individual 'based only on knowledge or reasonable belief, without more, that the person is unlawfully present within the United States."
Snow has yet to rule on other aspects of the case, which was the subject of seven-day bench trial in July. Whatever his ruling, the case is likely to return the 9th Circuit on appeal.
In Tuesday's limited review of the preliminary injunction, a three-judge appeals panel found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed with their Fourth Amendment claims, and that they were likely to be profiled again in the absence of a court order.
"Even if the plaintiffs comply with all criminal laws enforceable by the defendants, under the defendants' view of the Fourth Amendment, the plaintiffs remain vulnerable to unlawful detention solely because an officer has reasonable suspicion or knowledge that they are not authorized to be present in the United States," wrote Judge J. Clifford Wallace for the unanimous panel.
The panel found the plaintiffs' case strong and likely to succeed because "mere unauthorized presence is not a criminal matter, [and] suspicion of unauthorized presence alone does not give rise to an inference that criminal activity is 'afoot.'"
"While the seizures of the named plaintiffs based on traffic violations may have been supported by reasonable suspicion, any extension of their detention must be supported by additional suspicion of criminality," Wallace wrote. "Unlawful presence is not criminal.Nor does illegal presence, without more, give rise to reasonable suspicion of violation of Arizona's human smuggling statute, as the defendants maintain."