Supreme Court affirms Clarke decision regarding warrantless misdemeanor arrests

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

Edited on March 24 to add information about a rule change from the Supreme Court.

The Idaho Supreme Court ruled that officers cannot make warrantless arrests for misdemeanor driving under the influence if they did not witness the suspect operating a vehicle. 

The ruling cited precedent from the 2019 Clarke decision, which ruled officers cannot make warrantless arrests for certain misdemeanors, including domestic violence.  

In the case of Jasmine Reagan vs the Idaho Transportation Department, ITD had suspended Reagan’s driving privileges after Reagan was arrested at her home in 2019 for driving under the influence of alcohol. The arrest came after a citizen witnessed Reagan driving erratically and called dispatch. 

The district court overturned that one-year suspension, which ITD appealed to the Supreme Court.

The district court in Bonner County ruled that because the arresting officer in Ponderay did not witness Reagan operating a vehicle, the officer needed a warrant for the arrest.

“It is undisputed that the officer arrested Reagan for a misdemeanor DUI without a warrant, even though the officer did not observe Reagan driving or in control of a vehicle,” according to the Supreme Court opinion. “We have described above that, according to the Idaho Constitution, such an arrest requires a warrant. Therefore, the arrest was unlawful.”

Reagan consented to a breath test, but the court ruled the illegal arrest tainted that consent.

The unanimous opinion, written by Justice Gregory Moeller, repeatedly referenced a 2019 case, Idaho v. Peter O’Donald Clarke. 

In that case, Clarke was arrested without a warrant for suspected battery. Later, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated Clarke’s conviction, deeming warrantless arrests for misdemeanors unlawful unless an arresting officer witnesses the crime.

Law enforcement has repeatedly said the Clarke decision is problematic in domestic violence cases, because police often arrive after the assault has occurred in private. It is rare that an act of domestic violence is seen in public, according to the Idaho Statesman

Read more about the issue at idahostatesman.com. 

Last year, the Boise State University Biennial Report on Victimization & Victim Services reviewed the Clarke decision recently to look at how it impacted local police. 

The report found that after the Clarke decision, victims had more of a reluctance to call the police during subsequent victimizations. Most police agencies interviewed for the report had an immediate concern for public safety.

Additionally, the report found  “(o)fficers have begun using citations as opposed to obtaining an arrest warrant to immediately remove the suspect. As a result, court appearances are delayed 14-21 days after the original domestic violence incident occurs.”

Since then, the Supreme Court changed Misdemeanor Criminal Rule 5, and now allows a 48-hour requirement for some types of misdemeanor hearings. That includes domestic assault or battery, second-degree stalking, second-offense DUI and several other citations.

Need help?

Anyone in need of help or who believes they may be in a violent relationship is encouraged to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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