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Supreme Court ruling may affect bail rules for immigrants

Did you know that at present time, the wording of our laws here in Missouri allow law enforcement to deny bail to an individual if their immigration status is in doubt? We are one of three states that has enacted legislation to do this. But could a recent Supreme Court decision force lawmakers to reconsider the constitutionality of such an action? Some in the state might argue yes.

For those of our Columbus readers who follow the U.S. Supreme Court and the decisions it makes, you may have heard about their ruling in a case that called to question the constitutionality of laws that deny a person the right to bail solely based on their immigration status. The question has created some confusion across the nation and for good reason. Courts have delivered conflicting verdicts regarding unauthorized immigrants in the past.

While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that an unauthorized immigrant may be denied release if they are considered a flight risk, another court decision ruled that this could only be allowed if the defendant was believed to be dangerous. Verdicts like this leave a huge grey area for an individual whose immigration status is in question but is not considered dangerous or a flight risk.

Despite the fact that the case before the U.S. Supreme Court concerned a constitutional amendment made in Arizona, the case does raise questions about the current nature of our state's laws as well. Although ยง 544.472 of the Missouri Revised Statutes does state that if a person is eligible for release then they may not be denied bond or release, the wording of the law is specifically aimed at unauthorized immigrants. This begs the question: is a person in this class of people protected by the law or not?

If you're like us, you probably are hopeful that this most recent U.S. Supreme Court decision will have some effect on lawmakers, especially here in Missouri, because the current state of the law leaves a lot open to interpretation and perhaps even the violation of an individual's rights.

Source: USA Today, "Justices block law denying bail to illegal immigrants charged with felonies," Richard Wolf, June 1, 2015

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