Regular readers of this blog know that one of the reasons I am a traffic ticket attorney is because I find the loss of individual liberties abhorrent. It seems like the bigger government gets, the more freedoms we lose. Such was the case when the Department of Homeland Security was formed and immigration fell under its control. Previously, the now defunct Department of Immigration and Naturalization (INS) fielded all immigration issues, but once the Department of Homeland Security took over, it created three separate entities to handle all issues pertaining to immigration. These are the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE is the office that pertains to the subject of this blog as one of their primary functions is handling deportation.
I have mentioned previously that you cannot get deported for being convicted of a traffic violation, but you can face deportation if you get caught with pot in your car during a traffic stop. There was a time when you had to be convicted of a felony possession charge to get deported, but those days are over. It doesn’t matter what the quantity of pot is that you are caught with, nor does it matter if you are in the United States legally. A simple misdemeanor charge against a naturalized citizen can result in ICE getting involved, and that person can be deported without a conviction.
Even if you only have a small amount of pot for personal use, the government can strip you of your citizenship and send you packing. They give no regard to whether or not you have a job, a family, or other obligations in the U.S. They consider it a matter of “moral turpitude,” which means a corrupt, depraved, or degenerate act. This term used to apply to crimes of great magnitude such as rape or aggravated assault, but our government has now seen fit to use it as a weapon (excuse) to deport people who are not born in this country. For those who are born American citizens, we can only be stripped of our citizenship for acts of treason, becoming a naturalized citizen in a foreign country, or performing service in a foreign military. It hardly seems fair or even rational, does it?
Fortunately, the 4th Amendment protects everyone in the United States from unreasonable search and seizure. It protects us where we feel most safe – at home. If the police want to search your home for pot, they have to have a warrant before they do so, and a warrant will not be issued without probable cause. Consequently, if a police officer comes to your home and wants to conduct a search, never just consent. The only extenuating circumstance would be if you open the door and the cop sees evidence of illegal activity. There is no law that states you have to open the door for the cops unless they have a warrant, so don’t give them the advantage by having them disrupt the privacy of your home. As Sir Edward Coke, a 16th Century attorney, said, “…and where shall a man be safe if it not be in his own house?
Although I agree with that sentiment, keep in mind that your car is an entirely different matter according to the Supreme Court. In the state of Florida, if you get pulled over for a traffic violation and a cop suspects that he smells weed, your car can be searched because it is considered probable cause. A search warrant is not required because your car is mobile which, in theory, would give you the opportunity to get rid of any evidence while the cop is trying to obtain a search warrant. Often, police officers will ask you if they can search your car. If you say no, unfortunately for you, the cop can use this refusal or stating that he smells pot as “probable cause.” Of course, the 4th amendment was added to the Bill of Rights in the 1700’s, and no one was tooling around in a car at the time. It is just an easy way to eliminate one more liberty to which we are supposed to be entitled. No one leaves a roach in the ashtray expecting to get pulled over, so make sure that if you choose to smoke pot, don’t do it in your car.
I always write about traffic citations that are specific to the State of Florida, but a traffic stop that involves marijuana in the car of an illegal alien or naturalized citizen resulting in possible deportation is federally mandated. Even so, it doesn’t mean that you are not entitled to full representation. After all, something as cherished as your citizenship could be at stake, so give us a call at 954-967-9888 for a free consultation if you get busted for possession.