Jun 282010
 June 28, 2010  Posted by  Court

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Thursday expanded the ability of police to jail suspects for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) by allowing arrests to be made solely based on third-party tips. The ruling was handed down two weeks after the same court had relaxed DUI arrest rules so that motorists sleeping off a night of drinking in their automobiles would not be hit with the same penalty as if they had driven away.

It sounds like they really used some tortuous reasoning to accomplish further erosion of the Fourth Amendment in New Mexico. What’s even scarier is that the decision was unanimous:

A district court found the arrest unlawful under the common law “misdemeanor arrest rule” that states a suspect may only be arrested for a misdemeanor that is committed in an officer’s presence. The rule does not apply to felonies.

“Under the common law rules for warrantless arrests, there is an inherent balance between public safety and a suspect’s constitutional rights,” Patricio M. Serna explained in the unanimous decision. “Because felonies are a greater concern with respect to public safety, officers are granted more latitude when conducting investigations of such crimes. Conversely, since less severe crimes (misdemeanors) do not threaten public safety to the level of felonies, a warrantless arrest of a suspected misdemeanant cannot be made unless the arresting officer personally observes the offense.”

The court then decided that although the legislature had designated first-time DUI to be a misdemeanor and not a felony, it would rescind the common law tradition and create a new category — a misdemeanor that is not a “minor crime.”

“Given the compelling public interest in eradicating DWI occurrences and the potentially deadly consequences, the crime of DWI should be treated as a felony for purposes of warrantless arrests,” Serna wrote

Read more on TheNewspaper.com.
Related: Court opinion in New Mexico v. Martinez.

Great thanks to the reader who sent in this link.

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