Zweig Law, PC Attorneys at Law

Federal judge rules that terror watchlist is unconstitutional

On Sept. 4, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist is unconstitutional. The ruling impacts several thousand U.S. citizens, including some Colorado residents, who the Terrorist Screening Database refer to as "known or suspected terrorists."

According to media reports, the number of people named on the watchlist, which is maintained by the FBI, has significantly increased in recent years. For example, there were only around 600,000 people on the list in 2013. However, by June 2017, the number of people named had grown to approximately 1.16 million. Most of those listed are foreigners, but the government has confirmed that there are also approximately 4,600 U.S. citizens and permanent residents on the list. The list is shared among several federal agencies, and officials use it to check people who enter the country via border crossings and airports.

The case before the court involved over 20 U.S. Muslims who challenged the legality of the list. With the aid of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, they argued that they had been wrongly placed on the list. They further argued that the government uses overbroad methods to compile the list and that it is riddled with mistakes. The judge agreed and ruled that the list placed significant travel restrictions on the plaintiffs. He said that he will seek more legal briefs on the case before deciding what solution to impose.

Colorado residents facing criminal charges may need the help of a criminal defense attorney. After reviewing the details of the case, a lawyer may challenge the prosecution's evidence and work to get the charges dismissed. Another strategy might be to negotiate a plea deal that reduces the charges and associated penalties.

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