- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Supreme Court will review a state Court of Appeals ruling that overturned a man’s driving while intoxicated conviction.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1PJ8vps ) Sunday that the state’s high court will consider whether the appeals court was correct in ruling that a State Police sobriety checkpoint near Fort Smith where the man was arrested was unconstitutional.

The appeals court ruled Dec. 9 that the Sept. 2012 arrest of Jeremy Whalen was unlawful and any evidence was obtained unlawfully. The conviction was then overturned for a lack of evidence.

“The only evidence at (Whalen’s) trial was specific to the unconstitutional checkpoint and the fruits thereof,” Judge Waymond Brown wrote. “Because there was no other evidence to support the conviction, we also reverse the circuit court’s (ruling).”

The ruling said troopers had too much discretion to run the checkpoint and there was no formal plan for operating it.

The Arkansas attorney general’s office appealed, asking the state’s high court to review the decision, saying there was a plan for the checkpoint and that the lower court’s finding would set a precedent for local law enforcement agencies to have to deal with more bureaucracy and red tape in order to ensure public safety through setting up routine sobriety checkpoints on state roadways.

Whalen’s attorney, John Collins, did not immediately return a phone call on Sunday.

Following the December ruling, Collins said law enforcement would have to have formal procedures and accountability for choosing to run roadblocks that effectively seize citizen drivers.

“It’s a seizure without probable cause,” Collins said. “We can’t just seize people to investigate them.

“The U.S. Supreme Court says you can (run roadblocks) for (driving-while-intoxicated) investigations, but there has to be limits. They can’t just set up roadblocks anywhere at any time.”

The state high court’s order says briefs previously filed in the Court of Appeals are due Feb. 11.

No other hearing dates were scheduled.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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