PHOENIX (Feb. 11, 2015) An Arizona bill that would require most federal agents to get the county sheriff’s permission before making an arrest, or conducting a search or seizure has passed through two committees in the state Senate this week.
SB1384 declares that “the county sheriff is the senior and most authoritative law enforcement officer in the county,” and formally places most federal law enforcement officers under the sheriff’s jurisdiction.
A federal employee who is not certified as a peace officer in this state pursuant to section 13-3875 may not make an arrest, search or seizure in this state without written permission from the sheriff or sheriff’s designee of the county in which the arrest, search or seizure will occur.
Yesterday. the Senate Federalism, Mandates and Fiscal Responsibility Committee passed the bill with a 4-2 party-line vote and one member not voting. Today, the Public Safety, Military and Technology Committee approved the bill with a 3-2 vote. Republican Sen. John Kavanagh joined with one Democrat to vote no against three Republicans who voted yes. One additional Democrat was recorded as not-voting and a no vote would have killed the bill, 3-3.
The legislation does carve out some exceptions, including allowing arrests or searches that takes place on federal property, if the federal employee witnesses a crime that requires immediate arrest, a pursuit into the state, and for customs and border inspection agents.
The sheriff or sheriff’s designee may refuse permission for any reason considered sufficient.
Any federal employee violating the law would be subject to prosecution on the following grounds:
1. Kidnapping, if an arrest or attempted arrest occurs.
2. Trespass, if a search or attempted search occurs.
3. Theft, if a seizure or attempted seizure occurs.
4. An applicable homicide offense, if loss of life occurs.
5. Any other applicable criminal offense prescribed in title 13.
This legislation has two important functions. First it serves notice to the federal government that its authorities operate in Arizona with oversight, and reaffirms the sovereignty of the state. Secondly, it puts the county sheriff in the position to protect the rights and liberties of Arizona citizens from federal overreach.
The Constitution limits the authority of the federal government to specific enumerated powers, leaving all others to the states and their people. As a result, federal law enforcement officers may only exercise authority flowing from those powers. Any action taken by a federal law enforcement officer outside of those powers breaks the law. For example, the Constitution delegates no drug enforcement power to the federal government. Therefore, the DEA has no legitimate authority to conduct a raid on a medical marijuana clinic operating legally within a state.
The Arizona bill creates a check on federal power through the county sheriffs. With the feds required to notify the local authorities, the sheriff can conceivably exercise the option to stop unwarranted action before it happens, creating a layer of protection for the Arizona citizen.
“The idea that power should be checked and balanced serves as a cornerstone in the American political system,” TAC communications director Mike Maharrey said. “Federal law enforcement officers have acted with immunity, exercising unwarranted powers, for far too long. Just read the news stories about armed agents raiding Amish dairy operations because some poor old farmer commits the horrible crime of selling raw milk. This bill reestablishes the primacy of sheriff in Arizona and puts in place a mechanism to protect the average Arizonian. Who can argue that isn’t a good thing?”
SB1384 will next need to clear the Rules Committee before moving on to the full Senate for consideration.