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An appeals court on Wednesday struck down a voter-approved Arizona law that denies bail to immigrants who are in the country illegally and have been charged with a range of felonies that include shoplifting, aggravated identity theft, sexual assault and murder.
An 11-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law violates due-process rights by imposing punishment before trial. The court also said the law was a "scattershot attempt" at confronting people who flee from authorities, and that there was no evidence the law dealt with a particularly critical problem.
Proponents of the 2006 statute said it prevents people who aren't authorized to be in the country and skip out on their bail from committing future offenses. Critics say the law's real intent is to punish immigrants before they are convicted of crimes.
An aide to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was sued as part of the challenge to the law, said he believes the sheriff's office will ask the 9th Circuit to reconsider its opinion and, if that doesn't succeed, will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Cecillia Wang, who argued the case before the appeals court, said Wednesday's ruling protects the guarantee that every person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The 9th Circuit panel wrote that there were no studies, statistics or other evidence showing that people in the country illegally pose a greater risk of fleeing from authorities than people in the country legally. Two of the 11 judges wrote dissenting opinions, saying the law wasn't excessive when considering Arizona's interest in ensuring that immigrants who are in the country illegally and have committed serious crimes stand trial.
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