Federal Criminal Charges Dropped After Coalition Intervenes

(July 5, 2011)  A U.S. federal prosecutor dropped criminal charges against a Sikh for wearing his kirpan into a federal facility. To the Sikh Coalition’s knowledge, this is the first time that a federal prosecutor has ever dropped criminal charges against a Sikh for carrying a kirpan.

In May 2011, a routine truck delivery onto a military post in Herlong, California turned into a nightmare for a Sikh truck driver.

After noticing the Sikh truck driver’s kirpan (full name withheld because he requests anonymity), law enforcement officers drew their guns and removed his kirpan. He was then searched, and detained in handcuffs for several hours. Officers also removed his turban while he was in custody.

The Sikh truck driver was then criminally charged with violating a federal law that prohibits weapons in federal facilities. An individual found guilty of violating this law can face one year of imprisonment. The officers did not return the Sikh’s kirpan.

Following this injustice, the family immediately contacted the Sikh Coalition for assistance. The Coalition contacted the prosecutor’s office and requested that the criminal charges be dropped immediately. The Coalition sent the prosecution over 30 pages of legal precedent and policy underscoring Sikhs’ right to wear kirpans. Within weeks, the Coalition was successful in getting all of the charges dropped.

The Coalition also secured the return of the Sikh’s kirpan, and plans to request that relevant law enforcement officers receive training on Sikhism so no other Sikh has to suffer the same mistreatment.

We thank the Sikh truck driver and his family for bravely standing up for the right to practice their faith. As always, the Sikh Coalition urges all Sikhs to practice their faith fearlessly!

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