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Driving While Hispanic Law Found Unconstitutional

Up until May 5, 2013, Louisiana authorities could arrest people for driving in Louisiana without proper documentation of immigration status.  This law was called Driving without Lawful Presence but was informally known as the Driving while Hispanic law. This was actually a felony offense with up to a year in prison.  My Law Firm has represented people charged under this law, and we strongly feel that finding the law unconstitutional is a great day for Louisiana justice.

Chad Ikerd, an attorney with the 15th Judicial District Public Defenders office , along with Chief Public Defender Paul Marx, challenged the constitutionality of this statute. Mr. Ikerd’s position, and a position which I agree with, was that it is unconstitutional for the state to require a foreign resident to provide legal immigration status simply because he or she is driving a car.

Mr. Ikerd fought this at the local trial level, and then took an appeal to the Louisiana 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal. The Court found LA: RS 14:100.13 , or Driving without Lawful Presence, to be unconstitutional. The basis for the ruling was that the state law infringed on the federal law in regard to immigration status. One of the judges called the law “silly.”

We agree – the law was silly. It would be like if you were in Cancun, Mexico driving a rental car. The police stop you and you happen not to have any documentation proving you are in the country legally. So they take you away and they can keep you in jail for up to a year.  This sounds unfair and sounds unconstitutional, and now, thanks to Chad Ikerd and Paul Marx, the law has in fact been found to be unconstitutional. The entire Latino community is breathing a sigh of relief. They no longer have to worry about this silly law and can concentrate on their goal of becoming legal citizens.

Thomas Alonzo

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