The Rights of Non-Citizens in the Arizona Criminal Process

Being arrested in Arizona is a terrifying experience no matter who you are. How could it not be? Most likely, you’ll have an intimidating Arizona law enforcement officer put cuffs on you and place you in the back of a squad car while reading you rights that you’re probably not even able to pay much attention to. Then you’ll be taken down to the local precinct for booking, where you’ll be photographed, fingerprinted, have your belongings removed, and have all of your information entered into the police log – all with little information about what’s going to happen to you, how long everything will take, and when you’ll be allowed to talk to someone or see a friendly face. Your only real defense is to keep quiet other than asking to see an experienced Arizona criminal attorney and requesting to make your phone call.

Now imagine that you’re a non-citizen. Besides the fear of losing your job, embarrassing your family, and possibly even going to jail, you’re probably worried that you’re going to be deported or not given the same fair trial that every United States citizen is entitled to receive. Because of this, it’s likely that you’ll be far more inclined to want to make a deal with law enforcement and give yourself up – even if you didn’t actually commit the crime! – just to avoid having those horrible fears realized.

Don’t do it. Non-citizens in Arizona have the same rights as other people in the criminal process, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise or try to intimidate you out of those rights.

Non-Citizens and Citizens Have the Same Criminal Rights in Arizona

Though it’s true that illegal aliens and other non-citizens don’t have every right granted under the U.S. Constitution, such as the right to vote or possess firearms, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently agreed that when non-citizens are charged with a crime, they are guaranteed the same rights that U.S. citizens are guaranteed in criminal court. These include, but are not limited to: the right to a speedy trial, the right to remain silent, and the right to be represented by an attorney – even if they cannot afford an attorney on their own.

Where non-citizens need to be careful is in the involvement of immigration authorities. Often, when Arizona police officers suspect that people are non-citizens, they will turn them over to immigration authorities. It is possible that an immigrant agent may even be permanently posted at the jail you are taken to for the express purpose of checking the status of everyone who is brought in. If your status as a non-citizen is discovered, you still retain the rights discussed above. Definitely speak to a lawyer, but also request to speak to your country’s consulate.

If, however, the police don’t seem to suspect that you are not a citizen of the U.S., you will have to decide whether or not to identify yourself. An experienced Arizona criminal attorney can help you with this decision, but generally a good rule of thumb is not to give out your name and address until you are given a promise to appear. This paperwork means that the police are going to release you from jail on the promise that you will return to stand trial for the crime of which you are accused. However, if the cops simply keep you in jail and don’t produce this document, there’s a strong likelihood that they are planning to turn you over to immigration. Under these circumstances, you should not give them your personal information.

It’s also important not to ask to contact your consulate until you are sure that the officers believe you are not a citizen and plan to hand you over to immigration. Doing so will only serve to alert them to your status. Instead, find a way to get in touch with your consulate indirectly, such as through family or friends. In this way, you will be prepared if the issue of immigration comes up, but not unnecessarily causing more problems for yourself.

The important thing is to not allow yourself to be bullied into believing that the police can do anything they want to you due to your status. This is why it is so important to get an experienced Arizona criminal attorney on your side as early as possible in the process. Only then will you have the best chance of a positive outcome.

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