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State Supreme court overturns decision in bail-jumping case

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Kayla Bunge
July 16, 2010
— The state Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the rulings of a Walworth County judge that led to a bail jumping conviction for a man who was drinking alcohol while out on bond on a pending charge of sixth-offense drunken driving.

Michael R. Hess, 37, of Genoa City was convicted in 2005 of sixth-offense drunken driving. Judge James Carlson asked for a pre-sentence investigation and ordered Hess to not drink alcohol while out on bond pending sentencing.


Hess failed to respond to requests to be interviewed for the pre-sentence investigation, so Carlson issued a civil bench warrant for his arrest.


The sheriff’s deputy who arrested Hess smelled alcohol on his breath, and a blood test confirmed his blood-alcohol concentration was 0.118 percent.


Hess later was convicted of felony bail jumping for drinking while out on bond.


Hess filed a motion to suppress the evidence of his alcohol consumption, arguing that it was obtained as a result of an illegal arrest warrant. Carlson denied the motion, concluding that the warrant was valid and that the deputy acted in good faith in making the arrest.


Hess appealed, and the court of appeals reversed Carlson and ordered a new trial. The court of appeals concluded that the evidence should have been suppressed because the circuit court had no authority to issue the arrest warrant.


“ … We therefore hold that a warrant issued by a judge without any authority whatsoever to do so is void, any search or seizure pursuant to that void warrant is not clothed with judicial authority, and the good-faith exception does not operate to save the evidence seized,” the appeals court wrote in its decision.


The Supreme Court agreed the exclusion of the evidence obtained as a result of the invalid arrest warrant was appropriate.


“The warrant here was defective on its face,” Justice David T. Prosser wrote in his opinion released Thursday. “Nonetheless, we cannot reasonably attribute fault to the law enforcement officer who executed the warrant.


“Thus, suppressing evidence obtained as a result of the unauthorized, defective warrant is necessary to preserve the integrity of the judicial process.”



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