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Across the Region: March 2


Despite acquittal, court rules Iowa can keep seized cash

State government agencies can keep $33,000 in cash seized from a man acquitted of drug possession, a court ruled Wednesday in a case that detailed how the Iowa State Patrol targets out-of-state drivers.

The highway stop that led to Robert Pardee’s arrest was pretextual but did not violate his constitutional rights to travel and be free from unreasonable searches, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled.

Pardee was a passenger in a vehicle with California plates that was pulled over on Interstate 80 by a trooper working on an Iowa State Patrol interdiction team which target cars with plates from “drug source states,” such as California, Arizona, Washington and Oregon, for minor traffic violations.

A trooper focused on the vehicle Pardee was in after the driver made movements deemed suspicious, and it was stopped for a non-working taillight and following a semi too closely, court records show. The trooper was going give the driver a warning, but later insisted on searching the car after learning the occupants had criminal histories related to drugs.

After a canine alerted to the odor of narcotics, troopers seized a small amount of marijuana, $33,100 cash and drug ledgers listing amounts sold, prices and names of their buyers.

Pardee, 33 and originally from Flagstaff, Arizona, was charged with possession of marijuana. A judge rejected Pardee’s claim that the search was illegal, but found him not guilty on the basis that prosecutors failed to prove the charge. In the forfeiture case, a judge ruled the state could keep the money because a “preponderance of the evidence” showed it came from a criminal offense.

Pardee’s attorney, Nicholas Sarcone, said he would ask the Iowa Supreme Court to review the case and rule that motorists enjoy greater protections against pretextual stops under the Iowa Constitution.

He cited statistics show that nearly 90 percent of the Iowa interdiction teams’ stops in recent years were from out-of-state and that many searches didn’t find illegal substances or money.


Drug courts reducing prison population

In the last two years, Joel Amick, Kelly Carpenter and many others who are going through drug court have helped stabilize the prison population in South Dakota.

Drug court is an intensely supervised experience overseen by a team of professionals, including a judge, attorneys, treatment counselors, court services officers and law enforcement. It was implemented in Davison County in 2013.

“Overall, drug court has created an opportunity for adults to become positive members of our community, to improve their parenting and employment skills,” said Tim Moon, James Valley Drug Court probation officer.

Most drug courts across the state were implemented after the Public Safety Improvement Act, or Senate Bill 70, passed in the 2013 legislative session. Northern Hills Drug Court and Sioux Falls Drug Court were both implemented a few years prior as trial programs to prove they could work.

Since July 2013, 262 people statewide have enrolled in the five drug courts and four DUI courts, and 216 of those have stayed out of the penitentiary, according to statistics from the state. Fifty-two have graduated from the programs. Each participant has three years to complete a drug court program, serving a minimum of 18 months to be successful. The program has an 82 percent retention rate.

Senate Bill 70 also incorporated presumptive probation. If someone is convicted of a class 5 or 6 felony, a judge must give probation rather than prison time if the crime was not violent.

These two features greatly helped reduce the prison population, said David Gilbertson, chief justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court.


Court: man has no right to appeal 39 convictions

The North Dakota Supreme Court says a man whose record includes 47 felony convictions cannot file an appeal from a 26-year-old case.

Edward Waslaski Jr. pleaded guilty in 1988 to 39 counts of burglary in various counties in North Dakota and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Waslaski says his lawyer advised him to plead guilty to multiple charges to ensure a better outcome for a group of co-defendants, rather than look out for his individual interests.

The court said in a ruling released Thursday that a judge was right to throw out Waslaski’s application for appeal.

Waslaski pleaded guilty in 2007 to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.


Walker looks to overhaul court funding

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would bring changes to Wisconsin’s judicial system.

Under the proposed spending plan, the state Supreme Court would receive block grants and have more leeway in how it pays for its operations and those of trial courts.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said the funding change could have unintended effects, saying the budget doesn’t include a way to pay more than 300 court reporters. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said it’s an oversight that would be fixed.

Under the proposal, Wisconsin’s highest court would also directly control the state Judicial Commission, which investigates allegations of misconduct. Justice Annette Ziegler, who had a complaint filed against her by the commission in 2007, said she’s not convinced it should be under Supreme Court oversight.

Patrick called the change an administrative one. Two other justices have had complaints filed against them by the Judicial Commission.

“If the Judicial Commission is going to investigate members of the Supreme Court, it’s difficult for them to do that to the extent the court has the ability to retaliate against them in some way,” said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

The budget also calls for the salary of the Supreme Court’s chief justice to be lowered to match those of other justices. A move Walker’s office claims will make it easier to raise pay for the other justices.

Wisconsin voters will determine April 7 if the chief justice should be chosen by Supreme Court members, rather than the current system of it automatically being the most senior member of the court.

Walker’s proposal would also eliminate the state’s Judicial Council, which develops new procedural rules for criminal cases and has advised the governor, Supreme Court and legislature. The plan says the Supreme Court could create its own such council if it wants.

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