Apr 11, 2012

Congress: Warrantless arrests, even for serious crimes

La Jornada: (Original translation by the Americas Program)

The Justice Committee of the Chamber of Deputies tightened its draft opinion on the new Federal Criminal Procedure Code, which will be voted on today, by expanding the catalog of serious crimes that do not require a warrant to arrest suspects. It also added new powers for agents who are infiltrating organized crime.

After a two week period that opened the legislation for commentary, the committee chaired by Humberto Benítez Treviño (PRI) dismissed the request by the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity to approve President Felipe Calderón’s initiative to allow any authority to carry out arrests, searches, and seizures, legalizing the army and vavy’s operations.

The document, which will be discussed in the committee this afternoon, adds that in addition to serious crimes in which a person caught in the act or under reasonable suspicion can be arrested, other crimes with an “average penalty of five years or more” will also be considered under the new legislation.

Asked about the range of offenses that it covers, Deputy Jaime Cárdenas Gracia (PT) thought it dangerous because it deals with virtually all crimes contained in Articles 193 and 194 of the current code, and probably any kind, because the trend is to increase penalties.

So far, the crimes which allow for warrantless arrests under the wording of the draft opinion are: homicide, rape, kidnapping, trafficking, and violent crimes in which weapons or explosives were used.

In addition, piracy, terrorism, genocide, escape from custody, attacks on communication infrastructure, assaults on roads or highways, injury, robbery, theft or improper use of oil or its derivatives, larceny, vehicle theft, forced disappearances, treason, espionage, sabotage, corruption of minors, child pornography, sex tourism, pandering, child abuse, and crimes against public health are included.

More additions to the bill include: torture, trafficking of undocumented immigrants, smuggling, tax evasion, diversion or obstruction of justice, counterfeiting and forgery, crimes against the national wealth and consumption, rape, habitual sale of stolen goods, crimes against the environment, copyright violations, and possession of weapons used excluively by the army, navy, or air force.

It also allows undercover agents to intervene in organized crime’s commercial traffic: they can assume positions in the infiltrated organization, enter and participate in meetings with members, and, if necessary, carry out transactions with them.

As part of their investigations, they may request operations against organized crime. Their participation will be reviewed every six months, and if it is determined that no progress is being made, the undercover operations will be cancelled.

The commission tried to refine the investigation of persons, property, and cars by requiring that authorities inform the person of the reasons and evidence for the investigation and that they will be informed of the legal consequences should they refuse it. See Spanish original

Translation by Michael Kane, Americas Program

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