Transactions to buy off forged passport charges not allowed

POSTED: 03/27/11 8:04 PM

Attorney Merx points out rights of people with immigration-trouble

St. Maarten – People who get caught by immigration with travel documents that are either forged or otherwise not in order have to seek legal assistance, attorney Mr. C.H.J. Merx told this newspaper yesterday following a court case that involved one of his clients.
Merx is not promoting his own law office with the statement. “They could go to any lawyer,” he said.
The defendant who was in court on Thursday had accepted a $300 transaction after immigration officers found that her passport was forged.
“That is a crime,” Merx points out. “And it is not possible to offer a transaction for a crime. The Antillean penal code does not allow that.”
However, confronted with the choice between paying the fine or getting locked up, most people pay the fine, Merx said.
“What most people do not know is that you can file a complaint about this practice with the Common Court of Justice.”
That is what Merx did for his client; this earned him the right to appear in the Court in First Instance, where the matter was unceremoniously dismissed because the prosecutor did not have a file about the case.

Prosecutor mr. M. Overmeer told the defendant, 52-year-old Dolores N.F. from the Dominican Republic that the file did not contain “a single document that indicates that you had a forged passport.” She asked the court therefore to declare the prosecution inadmissible, and Judge mr. M. Keppels concurred. Merx said in court that there is only “a suspicion that there is a forged passport.”

At the hearing in the Common Court the solicitor general stated that the money Merx’s client had paid was not a transaction but a conditional dismissal. According to Merx, the Court disagreed and labeled it for what it is: a fine.
“The attorney general has said that this procedure does not qualify for the first prize,” Merx said. “That statement indicates that he prosecutor’s office was wrong.”
There is one other aspect to this case and similar ones. There is a general misconception that people in immigration detention are not entitled to an attorney, but Merx shows an article from the aliens’ legislation that proves otherwise. Like suspects in criminal detention, people in immigration detention are entitled to see a lawyer before the first interrogation. “The Salduz-arrest (that establishes this right -ed.) Also applies to these cases,” Merx said.

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