Archive for October 15th, 2006

State Courts Protecting Citizens in Absence of Supreme Court

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

In my recent post on DUI roadblocks, I again commented on the U.S. Supreme Court's increasing willingness to ignore constitutional protections — particularly when it comes to DUI cases.

In once again deciding that there was apparently a "DUI exception to the Constitution", the Court reversed the Michigan Supreme Court which had ruled that its citizens were protected from such violations of the Fourth Amendment. Michigan v. Sitz. Upon remand back to Michigan, however, the state court again reversed the conviction — this time holding that roadblocks violated their own state constitution. A small number of other states have followed Michigan.

In a similar situation, the South Dakota Supreme Court reversed a DUI conviction for violation of the defendant's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when his refusal to submit to chemical testing was used as evidence of his guilt. The U.S, Supreme Court reversed, holding there was no violation. South Dakota v. Neville. Upon remand the South Dakota Supreme Court again reversed — based now upon their own state constitution.

A few days ago, the Alaska Court of Appeals reversed a cocaine possession conviction. The court specifically refused to follow a 1991 U.S. Supreme Court casess (California v. Hadari) in suppressing evidence obtained by the police in apparent violation of the Fourth Amendment, noting that over a dozen other states had similarly rejected the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling based upon a reliance on their state constitutions. In a highly unusual published criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court, the opinion stated:

We agree with these other states that the United States Supreme Court has adopted an interpretation of the Fourth Amendment and the exclusionary rule that fails to adequately safeguard our citizens' rights to privacy, that fails to adequately protect citizens from unwarranted government intrusion, and that unjustifiably reduces the incentive of police officers to honor citizens' constitutional rights. Joseph v. Alaska.

In what may be a growing trend, our state courts are increasingly assuming the role of protecting their citizens when faced with a Supreme Court which has apparently abandoned that role. (Thanks to Fred Slone of Anchorage.)

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