Wednesday, October 21, 2009

US Supreme Court Chief Justice Dissents from Court's Refusal to Hear DWI Case

AOL News reports that Chief Justice John Roberts has expressed his disagreement with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Virginia v. Joseph A. Moses Harris, Jr., 558 U.S, __ (2009), to deny certiorari in a DWI guilty verdict overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court. The Virginia Court overturned the conviction because the police were alerted to the defendant's drunk driving by an anonymous tipster without personally observing the defendant breaking any traffic laws prior to stopping the defendant.  
The Virginia Supreme Court concluded that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. Justice Roberts, in a dissent joined by Justice Scalia, pointed out that state and federal courts are divided as to whether a traffic stop based on an anonymous tip to police that the driver is drunk when the investigating officer did not personally observe any traffic violations prior to the traffic stop actually violates the Fourth Amendment. Justice Roberts expressed doubt that a DWI case would fall under the general rule expressed by Florida v. J.L., 520 U.S. 266, 270 (2000), because "[t]he imminence of the danger posed by drunk drivers exceeds that at issue in other types of cases."

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