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BBC TV news interviews me about a Briton arrested on a plane

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By Jon Katz, a criminal defense lawyer and DWI/ DUI/ Drunk Driving lawyer advocating in Fairfax County, Virginia, and beyond for the best possible results for his clients.

Earlier this week, Briton Sean Jude Kelly’s allegedly drunken and “let’s fight” behavior on a plane returning to England from Cancun, led to an emergency landing in Florida. Police arrested and removed Kelly from the plane, and he then allegedly proceeded to try to kick and threaten to kill one or more police, which is a felony jailable up to five years for each count in Florida.

Right now, Kelly is charged with the alleged crimes on the police. It remains to be seen whether he will be prosecuted for his in-air behavior, which might also pose interesting questions about the proper country in which to prosecute him for the on-flight behavior, and possible difficulty in getting the passengers and flight crew to fly to such a trial.

Such on-flight behavior as that alleged against Kelly is probably frequent on planes. Kelly posted Twitter messages before the flight started about his plan to get drunk to overcome his nervousness about the long flight. Unfortunately, drunkenness frequently brings out the worst and even most violent sides of people, whereas we do not frequently hear about marijuana increasing violent tendencies. Yet, marijuana remains illegal in the United States (with the exceptions of medical marijuana states, and possession in Washington and Colorado), and alcohol is ubiquitously legal. They should both be legal.

Close to finishing in D.C. Superior Court late yesterday morning, BBC television news invited me once again to be a talking head about the American criminal justice system, this time about Mr. Kelly’s case. Late television news interview invitations are par for the course, in part because the news is ever changing and news organizations update their news coverage focus from hour to hour. That means that my availability to appear on the news is hit or miss, particularly when I am asked to interview during business hours, because I am in court most days often not knowing when court will finish.

Was it worth it for me to change my afternoon’s schedule to appear for what I already knew from past experience might be just two or three questions? Yes. Each time I get a chance to discuss the criminal law with the news, I am able to get the message out from the criminal defense side. Moreover, in this instance, the studio was less than two miles from the courthouse, and the interview time was only around ninety minutes after my court completion time, leaving me additional time to debrief with my client and to handle a matter at the court’s criminal clerk’s office.

The interviewer, Polly Evans, asked me the following questions, followed by my answers:

(1) Sean Kelly faces up to twenty years in prison. Will he have to serve that much time?

My answer: His first goal should be to win the case and not to get any jail time at all. He is presumed innocent, and it is the prosecutor’s burden to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If Mr. Kelly is convicted, the sentencing judge will consider such factors as the allegations proven in the case, the circumstances of the case (e.g., drunkenness), his prior criminal record, and the rest of the picture of his life (for instance, he possibly leads an otherwise ordinary life in the business world).

(2) If convicted, will Mr. Kelly be deported?

So long as Mr. Kelly is not a United States citizen, if convicted of an aggravated felony (for instance by receiving a sentence — both active and suspended — over a year) or crime of moral turpitude (most felonies are considered crimes of moral turpitude in the immigration law, and he is charged with a felony), he likely will be deported. I did not add that his lawyer can try to craft an immigration-friendly disposition, including a substitute count of disorderly conduct or misdemeanor assault with a sentence below a year (and ideally with the suspended and active sentence below six months to convert the matter to a petty offense), depending on how Florida law for those charges is written.

This interview was on  BBC South East Today, on BBC One, live at 6:30 p.m. London time, and rebroadcast at 10:00 p.m.