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Georgia eases up on certain immigration offenses

When most people think about immigration crimes, they imagine an illegal immigrant getting caught with a fake work permit or a falsified identification card. But federal crimes related to immigration can encompass crimes that affect legal citizens as well.

Laws and ordinances can come from the federal, state or local level. Federal laws preempt state laws, and state laws overcome local ordinances. Georgia is one of the states that took action to make immigration offenses tougher in recent years, but one provision in the immigration law catalog was recently struck down.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided to strike the part of a law that made it a crime for a person to transport an illegal immigrant while committing another crime. For instance, if someone was giving a ride to an illegal immigrant and was cited for breaking the law by exceeding the speed limit, they could face penalties for having the illegal immigrant in the car.

Though federal law still holds a provision that makes the act illegal, the revision of the Georgia law is a move forward that pleases citizens and lawyers. An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who was involved with the case said that the successful challenge shows people that they should not be afraid of getting in trouble "for innocently helping their friends."

State laws become complicated when someone crosses state lines, and it has not yet been addressed how the federal law in place would affect this change to Georgia law if someone transported an illegal immigrant across the state border. A legal citizen who has been charged with an immigration offense should know that these laws are constantly in flux, and a skilled attorney will be able to navigate the complicated set of laws. It is important to exercise your rights, and an experienced attorney can help you defend yourself to the fullest.

Source: source publication, "Federal judge strikes part of Georgia immigration law," The Associated Press, Mar. 20, 2013

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Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum

Former Federal Prosecutors

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