EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Thursday, February 11, 2010

48 Hours: Supreme Court Of South Dakota Addresses 18 Day Detention Of Arrestee Without Probable Cause Hearing

Pursuant to the Supreme Court's opinion in County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44 (1991), individuals arrested without a warrant must have a judicial probable cause determination within 48 hours after the arrest unless a bona fide emergency or other extraordinary circumstance exists. But what is the remedy for violations of the principle? In the situation where a defendant confesses or make other incriminating statements during an unlawful detention, the court is faced with the decision of whether to suppress the confession, statements, or evidence, and courts across the country have reached inconsistent results. But what happens when potentially exculpatory evidence is lost as a result of the delay? That was the issue of first impression faced by the Supreme Court of South Dakota in its recent opinion in State v. Larson, 776 N.W.2d 254 (S.D. 2009).

In Larson, Steven Carl Larson was arrested on July 24, 2008 without a warrant and charged with disorderly conduct and simple assault based upon alleged acts that he committed against Linette Rainwater. Larson claimed that he was acting in self-defense and asked that his injuries be photographed, but the arresting officer did not comply

After being booked, defendant was taken to the Minnehaha County Jail in Sioux Falls. There, defendant again requested that his injuries be documented, specifically asking that photographs be taken. None were taken. Defendant was told to sign up for sick call. He signed up, but received no response to his request. He then made written requests that his injuries be documented. The first, dated July 31, 2008, stated, “Please! I'm on hold from Moody Co. I need picture taken of bite mark/bruise incurred during alleged assault. Need A.S.A.P. before evidence disappears! Thank you.” This request was answered on August 1, 2008, with, “Contact your attorney for any evidentiary question or request you may have.”

On August 3, 2008, Defendant, a military veteran, submitted another inmate request form, stating, “I have also been deprived of my heart, P.T.S.D. (post traumatic stress disorder) meds, as well as for my hiatal hernia. I have to sick call twice to no avail. Please! I have been incarcerated for 11 days now and I still have never been arraigned, therefore I do not have an attorney to contact. I am 100% permanently and totally disabled. I do not have any money for a surety bond. Contact Moody Co. please and ask them for a PR Bond on my behalf. I have no other recourse open to me. Also, I was never given my rights!” This request was answered on August 4, 2008, with, “You are a Moody County prisoner your bond is $1,000 cash/surety. The medical staff is aware and signed you up for sick call.”

Defendant submitted a grievance form, stating, “Moody County needs to be made aware of my inmate request as of 8-4-08. I do not have an attorney because I have been given no arraignment. If you refuse to contact Moody Co. on my behalf, then Minnehaha Co. will also be named in the upcoming lawsuit on violating my constitutional civil rights!” No response was given to this request.

Defendant remained in jail for 18 days.

After Larson was convicted of simple assault, he appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the trial court should have dismissed the action on due process grounds because he was not brought before a committing magistrate without unreasonable delay. The Supreme Court of South Dakota noted that the United States Supreme Court has not yet stated what remedy is available for violations of McLaughlin's 24 hour rule but noted that "a review of the decisions dealing with violations of the 48-hour rule reveal[ed] no case where charges were dismissed." That said, the court also noted that

no case was as egregious as this one. Our research yields no modern case where a person arrested without a warrant was held in jail for anywhere near 18 days without a probable cause determination. On the contrary, most cases involve only hours of prolonged detention and in some instances a few additional days.

The court also found that the case before it was unique because most cases with violations of the 24 hour rule involve defendants making incriminatory statements, not defendants being unable to obtain potentially exculpatory evidence. So, what did the court do? Well, according to the court,

Here, we have no confession or evidence gained after the 48 hours elapsed. Rather, we have potentially exculpatory evidence lost as a result of the delay. What remedy, then, would be available when suppression is not an option? To balance the societal interest in punishing criminal behavior and a defendant's right to due process, we conclude that dismissal would be warranted “in cases of egregious prosecutorial misconduct or on a showing of prejudice (or a substantial threat thereof), or ‘irremediable harm’ to the defendant's opportunity to obtain a fair trial."

The court thus remanded for a determination of whether there was a bona fide emergency or other extraordinary circumstance justifying the unreasonable delay in this case and, if so, whether Larson's opportunity to obtain a fair trial was prejudiced by the delay.



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