New California Legislation Could Limit Immigration Questions in Unrelated Court Cases

ICE News reports from the first part of this year highlighted a trend that many in both the legal and civil rights communities believed to be a harmful thing: the significant uptick in federal immigration authorities using courthouses as locations to identify and arrest undocumented immigrants. Whether they are parties to cases or witnesses, undocumented immigrants are often being asked under oath about their immigration status. Fearing that the answers they give could be used against them in deportation proceedings, many are simply avoiding court altogether. According to one Boston Globe report about the nationwide trend, immigrants are violating judges’ orders, violating probation and losing out on mental health services due to fear that their appearance inside the courthouse will end up getting them deported. To give yourself the best chance of protecting your rights, don’t just ignore your traffic ticket or other legal issue, though; contact a knowledgeable California defense attorney instead.

According to some California legislators, this issue of immigration enforcement inside courthouses is causing a wide range of problems in the legal system. Sen. Scott Weiner, one of the sponsors of a new bill, told KCRA 3 that many immigrants “won’t even show up in court for something as simple as a traffic ticket because they’re afraid they may be deported.”

Simply doing nothing in response to a traffic ticket is, of course, generally one of the worst options you can select. As the state’s Judicial Branch web page puts it, if “you ignore (do not respond to) your ticket, your situation will only get worse. Your fine will increase and additional penalties can be added.” Your driver’s license may be suspended. If you no-show on the court date stated on the ticket you signed, you may become guilty of committing an additional crime. Potentially, you can rack up hundreds of dollars of additional fines and even get arrested. Many immigrants are apparently willing to take these risks due to fear of deportation.

The bill co-sponsored by Weiner seeks to change this problem. Senate Bill 785 would create strict boundaries on when an immigrant would be required to testify about his/her status in open court. If the new bill, which passed the Assembly 67-1 and the Senate 31-6, becomes law, then the process of asking about immigration status would change. If a party or attorney desired to ask an immigrant about his/her status, the immigrant could request a special private hearing in which the judge would determined whether or not the immigration question was relevant to the case. Only if the judge made an advance decision that the answer impacted the case at trial would the questioner be allowed to ask in open court. As designed, the case would prevent these types of immigration status questions in cases like domestic violence and traffic tickets.

If you’ve received a traffic ticket in California, you may have an impulse simply to ignore it, especially if you have other complicating factors in your life, such as your undocumented immigration status. Don’t just ignore your ticket. Instead, talk to the experienced San Francisco traffic ticket defense professionals at Uthman Law Office. Our team has been providing effective representation to our traffic ticket clients for many years. Attorney David Uthman has over 20 years of experience as a litigation attorney and almost a decade of experience as a police officer. Put our knowledge of the law and the system to work for you. Call us today at (415) 556-9200 to schedule your FREE initial consultation to get the help you need.

More blog posts:

When Is (or Isn’t) a Warrantless Police Search of an Impounded Vehicle Allowable in California?, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 9, 2018

What You Should Do (and What Not to Do) When you Receive a Speeding Ticket in California, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 6, 2018

Photo Credit: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, [CC0 License], via Wikimedia Commons