- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A divided Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a drunken driving conviction Wednesday in a case that turned on whether evidence that was unconstitutionally seized can be used anyway if authorities collected it in the good-faith belief that they were following binding legal precedents in place at the time.

While the majority in the 4-3 decision, written by Justice G. Barry Anderson, stressed that its holding was a narrow one and suggested that it’s not likely to affect many other cases, dissenting justices Alan Page, David Lillehaug and Lorie Gildea warned the impact may be broader.

Evidence seized illegally usually must be excluded from a defendant’s trial under federal and state constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The “exclusionary rule” is meant to deter police misconduct.

But as the majority noted, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted a number of good-faith exceptions to that rule. The Minnesota Supreme Court has repeatedly resisted such exceptions, the three dissenters countered.

At issue in this case was whether Minnesota should adopt an exception articulated in a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision that covered circumstances under which binding precedents specifically authorized a particular police practice at the time.

This case involves an Aitkin County woman who was convicted of drunken driving after police obtained a blood sample from her without a warrant, which they didn’t need under the precedents in place at the time. However, while her case was on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 against blood draws without warrants, setting a new precedent. So she challenged her conviction under that ruling.

But Wednesday’s ruling affirmed her conviction. The majority, citing the 2011 decision, said the exclusionary rule does not apply in Minnesota “when law enforcement acts in objectively reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent.” The majority also said nothing in its decision should be construed as authorizing any other exceptions.

In his dissent, Page disputed that the ruling will prove to be so narrow. He said the court had steadfastly rejected good-faith exceptions until now.

“The opinion can only be read as opening the door to adoption of the whole panoply of exceptions,” Page wrote. “The court’s suggestion that it can pick and choose ‘fragments’ of federal good-faith jurisprudence is nonsense.”

Lillehaug wrote a separate dissent backing up Page, who is retiring at the end of the month after 22 years on the court, praising his “characteristic eloquence, reflecting his passion for justice.”


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide