The Corner

Linda Chavez’s Mistake?

I believe Linda Chavez makes a mistake in her criticism of the Arizona law in our symposium today. She writes:

Finally, the law makes it legal for the police to pull over “any person who is operating a motor vehicle if the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe the person is in violation of any civil traffic law and this section.” Notice, the law doesn’t require the person to have violated a traffic law, it merely requires the police to have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in violation of any civil traffic law or is illegally present in the U.S. So if you look like you might not have an Arizona driver’s license, or even if you simply look to this particular police officer like you might be in the country illegally, you can be pulled over and required to produce proof of citizenship or legal resident status.

Chavez makes this sound very nefarious,  but the section in question is the alien smuggling section, not the sections having to do with documentation. Here’s the entire context:

Sec. 4.  Section 13-2319, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:

13-2319.  Smuggling; classification; definitions

A.  It is unlawful for a person to intentionally engage in the smuggling of human beings for profit or commercial purpose.

B.  A violation of this section is a class 4 felony.

C.  Notwithstanding subsection B of this section, a violation of this section:

1.  Is a class 2 felony if the human being who is smuggled is under eighteen years of age and is not accompanied by a family member over eighteen years of age or the offense involved the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

2.  Is a class 3 felony if the offense involves the use or threatened use of deadly physical force and the person is not eligible for suspension of sentence, probation, pardon or release from confinement on any other basis except pursuant to section 31-233, subsection A or B until the sentence imposed by the court is served, the person is eligible for release pursuant to section 41-1604.07 or the sentence is commuted.

D.  Chapter 10 of this title does not apply to a violation of subsection C, paragraph 1 of this section.

E.  Notwithstanding any other law, a peace officer may lawfully stop any person who is operating a motor vehicle if the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe the person is in violation of any civil traffic law and this section.

My understanding is that, as a technical matter, this language is probably in the law to make it clear  that members of the alien smuggling unit can also make stops based on routine traffic violations. In any case, Chavez appears to have taken it out of context.  

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